Beyond coffee and spices

DREAM DESTINATION

Beyond coffee and spices

Kodagu, along the Western Ghats, is blessed with emerald landscapes, misty mountains and enchanting waterways. Chitra Ramaswamy visits the rural expanse and returns with evergreen memories

The aroma of coffee, cardamom, herbs and spices waft through the air as their estates stretch for endless miles – it is nature all the way. Idyllic Kodagu still retains much of its old world charm despite all the trappings of modern living that have entered Coorgi homes.

How it began

Madikeri, the district headquarter, is situated at an elevation of 1,525m above sea level. The hill station, dotted with red-tiled bungalows hidden amongst wide-ranging lush vegetation was founded in 1681 by Muddu Raja, a prince from the Haleri dynasty, who also gave the town its earliest name, Muddurajakeri which finally became Madikeri. Raja’s Seat located in the heart of the town, offers stunning bird’s eye view of the towering hills, dense forests, verdant valleys carpeted by a mosaic of emerald paddy fields and the serpentine roads below.

Omkareshwara Temple, a must-visit in Madikeri, was built by Lingarajendra
Wodeyar II in 1820. It is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, crowned by a massive dome and minarets in its four corners. The temple has a linga in its sanctum which is said to have been brought from Kashi. A short distance from here is Gaddige Fort, the royal tombs of the Kodagu kings – another architectural amalgam of Indo-Islamic style.
The Madikeri Fort must have been an imposing structure in its days of glory.

Initially built as a mud structure by Mudduraja, the citadel was fortified with stone ramparts by Tipu Sultan. Dodda Veerarajendra of the Haleri Dynasty built a palace after he regained control of the region from Tipu. The palace, however, was rebuilt on modern lines by his brother Lingarajendra in 1811.

Beauty of water-bodies

Talacauvery, from where mighty Cauvery originates, is 38 km away from Madikeri. Set against the backdrop of Brahmagiri hill, the temple complex has shrines
dedicated to the Shiva and Ganesha. A steep flight of 400 steps from this level takes one to the top of the Brahmagiri peak where the Saptarishis (seven sages), it is believed, performed a yagna (sacrifice) in the ancient times.

The 360-degree panoramic view of the hills and valleys from atop this peak is a mesmerising sight to behold. The lower level of the temple complex is marked by a thirtha kundike (pond), where Cauvery emerges as a perennial spring, only to flow underground again and resurface a short distance away, at Bhagamandala. Mid October sees lakhs of devotees gather at Talacauvery to witness the miraculous and mysterious bubbling of the spring at a pre-determined time.

Legend has it that the mythical maiden Cauvery River played truant when Sage Agasthya fell in love with her. The sage once put his bewitching spouse Cauvery in a pot and asked one of his disciples to keep watch over her. Upset at thus being caged, Cauvery willed herself to flow away even as the disciple kept protesting.

She took refuge underground, thus disappearing from her source at Talacauvery only to re-emerge a few kilometres away at Bhagamandala where a temple, dedicated to Shiva as Bhagandeshwara, Brahma and Vishnu, stands in all its magnificence.

The ceilings and mantapas of the temple display exquisite craftsmanship and artistic prowess in the delicately carved sculptures on wood and stone. Bhagamandala, the converging point of three rivers – Cauvery, Sujyothi and Kannike - is highly venerated and people pay homage to their ancestors and departed souls here.

The major waterfalls of the region, Chelavara, Irupu and Abby, leave one mesmerised. If one has a steep, vertical drop, the other two are cascading avalanches of white froth that thunder over rocks and boulders, dousing tourists with their jet sprays in the process. 

Mythical stories abound

There are some interesting legends associated with Irupu Falls which originates in the adjacent Brahmagiri Hills and becomes a part of Lakshmana Teertha River in the plains. The river, it is believed, sprang up when Lakshmana shot an arrow into Brahmagiri when he and Rama felt thirsty and were looking to have some water while on their search for Sita.

According to another legend, Irupu resulted from an outpouring of Lakshmana’s remorse-ridden tears,following a rare verbal combat he had with Rama, en route to Lanka.

Scenic hills

The Chelavara Falls, en route to Kakkabe, is a rock climber’s haven during the dry months when adventure seekers rappel down its craggy vertical face.A 17km drive from Talacauvery to Kakkabe, once the largest producer of honey in Southeast Asia, is as scenic as a drive as anywhere else in Kodagu. While the dense rain forest cover endows the region with rich and variegated flora, Kakkabe’s main attractions are the 5,370 feet tall Thadiyandamol Peak, the highest peak in Kodagu region; the ancient Padi
Igguthappa Temple, abode of the much revered local deity Igguthappa, the god of rain and rice; and the 18th century Nalaknad or Nalnad Palace built by Doddaveeraraja as a hunting lodge and summer resort of the Kodava kings. The 6 km trek to the peak holds promise of a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea near Kerala’s Kannur coast.

Igguthappa

Temple, a grand Kerala-style structure, is perhaps best visited in March during the Kaliyarchi Festival when thousands of pilgrims and visitors gather to witness the temple deity being taken out in procession to the top of Mallamma Betta, one of Kakkabe’s peaks, to the accompaniment of dancing and singing. A small domed-pavilion with sculpted pillars and four bulls on the corners of its crest facing the cardinal directs, stands solitary in the twin-storeyed Nalnad Palace courtyard. With its sloping roof, this ASI-monument, has some intricate wooden friezes and wall murals, few of which are in a fairly easonable state of preserve.

Some other interesting places to visit in the region are Harangi Dam, Cauvery Nisargadhama and the Tibetan Namdroling Monastery at Kushala Nagar... The list continues as there are many more awe-inspiring destinations in the region, that are worth exploring.

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