Shades of Shivamogga

Shades of Shivamogga

Shades of Shivamogga

“What’s there to see?” We were asked while leaving for Shivamogga. Well-meaning advisers felt that instead of staying in the city, we ought to travel 100 km further. After all, it was Jog Falls in Sagara taluk, that was the chief tourist attraction and there were many lodges and home-stays in its vicinity. Honestly, we had no intention of ignoring Jog Falls, but were just as keen on viewing some lesser-known spots in and around the ‘Gateway of Malnad’.

We left Bengaluru at 2 in the afternoon. Driving through the scenic terrain, we covered the 275-km stretch to Shivamogga in five hours and checked into a hotel. The next morning, after breakfast, we left for Jog Falls. We were worried that there might not be much water, but the offspring of River Sharavathi rose (or rather fell) to the occasion.

While Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Rani did not gush gloriously, neither were they disappointingly deficient. In company with hundreds of others, we admired the famous foursome, posing for pictures against the spectacular backdrop.

Retracing our steps, we stopped at the Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Safari, just 12 km from Shivamogga, where we faced a setback. The sanctuary was under renovation and only a few deer were out grazing. The lions and tigers, which usually roamed around freely, had been locked in their enclosures that day. We did see them at close quarters from a fortified vehicle, but given a chance, we would have preferred to meet them in a near-natural setting.

Some animal love
At the zoo in the premises, birds and beasts seemed to welcome us. A bear pushed its snout through the bars of its cage, and a peacock flaunted its outspread tail. What more, there were hyenas, wolves, porcupines, crocodiles and panthers too.

We had lunch at our hotel before moving on. Time constraints prevented our journey to Thirthahalli (60 km from Shivamogga) and beyond that to Kuppalli, once home to the great Kuvempu. Our plans to visit the Sigandur Chowdeshwari Temple, again situated close to Shivamogga, wouldn’t materialise too. The Gajanur-Tunga Dam, however, was easily accessible. Among the interesting aspects of our trip was the opportunity to see the mighty rivers of Tunga, Bhadra and Sharavathi.

From Gajanur, we returned to Shivamogga where we made our way to the Sacred Heart Cathedral, apparently the second-largest church in India. Seated within, we realised that reports that it could accommodate 5,000 people were not exaggerated. Situated in a spacious compound, that majestic monument has a charming statue of Jesus above the main entrance.

While we had heard about most places in Shivamogga from those who had been there, Gandhi Park was our personal discovery. We were there, appropriately enough, on October 2, and were greeted by an illuminated statue of the Mahatma. For those interested, the Park also houses an aquarium and a swimming pool. For those with kids, there is a fun play area with a toy train.

Checking out of the hotel the following morning, we set off for the Elephant Camp at Sakrebailu, 14 km from Shivamogga. We interacted closely with the patient pachyderms, patting them and offering bananas. Particularly cute was a baby elephant that seemed to have a poor sense of direction! After a fun elephant ride, we got the opportunity to watch the huge creatures being bathed in Tunga’s backwaters. Even onlookers were allowed to assist in this fun task.

After getting our fill of elephants, we made a final stop in Shivamogga before heading back to Bengaluru. During our short sojourn, we had noticed a statue of Shivappa Nayaka. A ruler of the Keladi Nayaka dynasty, he ruled the region in 17th century. His palace, adjacent to the renowned Kote Seetha Ramanjaneya Temple, is now a museum. Rare manuscripts and weapons are on display inside the museum, while ancient sculptures adorn the surrounding garden.

A remnant of the royal residence is a remarkable rosewood building. Our guide invited us to stand on the balcony where Shivappa Nayaka had sat in state. To our considerable relief, the protruding platform supported our weight. Evidently, the 350-year-old structure possessed the enduring vitality that characterises all the varied wonders of Shivamogga!

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