As Hemavathi swells

As Hemavathi swells

Birth of a river

The destinies of Bengaluru and River Cauvery are intertwined. The river’s water feeds city and is sourced over a distance of 100 km. 

But, I was curious to see the birth place of River Hemavathi, one of the chief tributaries of River Cauvery, near Javali village, in Mudigere taluk of Chikkamagaluru district.

Starting at an elevation of about 1,219 m above sea level, River Hemavathi flows through  Hassan and Mandya districts before joining River Cauvery near Krishnaraja Sagara, after a journey of over 245 km.

Before this happens, a masonry dam with earthen flanks and a central spillway impounds and stores waters from River Hemavathi in a reservoir, which irrigates several districts en route. 

Environs

Nestled amidst lush coffee plantations and interspersed with aromatic pepper vines, areca nut and fruit trees, the cradle of River Hemavathi is utterly scenic.

The dense woods not only provide shade to the coffee plantations, but are also home to hundreds of species of birds.

You can spot black woodpeckers, grey hornbills, bulbuls, grey pigeons, kingfishers and parrots, and hear about encounters with bisons, barking deer, wild pigs, porcupines, bears and even cheetahs. 

Folklore has it that the water here sprung out when a youngster, Satyakama, was asked by his guru to take care of 300 cows, but the animals had no water to go to. He invoked Lord Ganesha and when his prayers bore fruit, the hills gave birth to a steady stream, seen to this day springing from a U-shaped rock. Soon enough, the water helped the cows multiply into 1,000, and Satyakama passed his teacher’s test and became a sage, with a Vedic school and an ancient text named after him.

The water from here then seeps into a downstream tank, from where it moves underground into a large adjoining pond. It is from this pond that River Hemavathi begins its journey.

People today consider the birthplace of the river sacred. Coins are dropped into the U-shaped rock to seek blessings. A Ganapathi temple is seen close by, constructed in 1874 alongside a rock that resembled the deity.

The temple is known for its annual chariot festival in February.

During this grandeur, the street leading to the temple wears a festive spirit and is lined with stalls. Villagers from plantations nearby take a day off from their work to patronise the stalls. Every visitor to the temple is served a simple lunch of rice, curds, lentils, vegetables and pickles.

A peepal tree has been planted in the precincts of the temple by a coffee-estate owner to add to the sanctity of the place.

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