Over the mountain

The third highest peak of Karnataka, Tadiandamol, is quite an easy trekking destination, something that promises stunning vistas along with a little bit of history, writes B V Prakash

Tadiandamol peak

When it comes to trekking, Karnataka is indeed blessed to have some of the finest options that can be explored over the weekend. With the wonderful Western Ghats lining the coastal belt of the state, it is neither far nor too difficult to choose a suitable trail. Though many of the treks have, of late, been kept out of bounds for visitors for the sake of keeping nature and wildlife safe, we still have a few exciting trails.

Hills are calling

The south-western part of Kodagu bordering Kerala is a typical hilly terrain with tall peaks, grassy slopes and thick shola patches. The highest peak here is Tadiandamol which roughly translates to ‘tall, broad hill’ in the local dialect. Rising to a height of 5,735 ft above sea level, it is not only the highest peak of Kodagu but also the third highest in the state after Mullayanagiri and Kudremukh. Naturally, more and more climbers rush to trek up this hill during weekends. Though we had climbed this mountain earlier, we were once again drawn to it when we planned our recent trek.

Arriving at Virajpet, situated at about 260 km from Bengaluru, by an overnight journey, we freshened up and had breakfast by the time it dawned. We also packed some food for the way before taking a bus to the village closer to the base of the hill, Kakkabbe. Interestingly, Tadiandamol trek has an added advantage of visiting a heritage spot and delving into some history, too. Nalknad Palace, at the beginning of the trail, is one of the few palaces in Kodagu. We chose to visit it first. Built on a sprawling ground, it is a two-storied tiled structure with a little garden all around.

Nalknad Palace
Nalknad Palace

As we stepped in, a caretaker came along offering to show us around. Our attention was drawn to a pair of well-sculpted stone elephants flanking the steps. Entering the wide hall, we climbed up the steps on the left to the king’s room and queen’s room, where the main attraction are the murals of yesteryears. Among the many paintings, the most important is the ‘Royal Procession’, depicting the King’s victory. As the caretaker narrates, the palace was built by King Dodda Veerarajendra to celebrate his victory over Tipu Sultan. The Haleri kings ruled the region until 1780 AD when Lingarajendra I died.

Hyder Ali took over, stationing a garrison to manage the region and keeping the young sons of the king away. However, while Hyder was fighting the British, the Kodava nobility utilised the opportunity to throw away the garrison and reclaim their independence. After Hyder’s death, Tipu, who succeeded the throne, kept the sons of the king at Periapatna. In 1786, the eldest of the sons, Dodda Veerarajendra, managed to escape the prison and return to Yavakapadi when he was hailed as the king to the province. He built this elaborate palace between 1792 and 1794. Later on, when he did not beget a son, his brother Lingarajendra II ruled for some time followed by his son, Chikka Veerarajendra, till 1834 when the British took over.

The ceilings of the rooms are studded with floral patterns and designs. Unfortunately, over the years, the murals have been overlooked and plastered all over. It was with the initiative of the archaeological department along with INTACH that many of these were brought back to life. We strolled along the facade with well-carved wooden pillars before descending a narrow flight of stairs to the hiding rooms called the dark rooms. And once the doors were closed, it was pitch dark inside. We wondered at the unique wooden window with a mesh of triangles in which a gun kept in any of the openings would directly aim at the chest of anyone standing at the entrance! Outside the palace, in the courtyard is a small decorative mantapa, where Dooda Veerarajendra had married his second wife Mahadevammaji.

For stunning vistas

Embarking on our trekking adventure, we took the trail through lush coffee estates and a few houses here and there with thin streams crossing our path. The walk through the woods was gradual until we hit an open space with a wide valley to the right and hills to our left. The peak is about 4 km from here and the climb begins. A little ahead into the trail is a forest checkpost where trekkers’ details are taken along with a nominal fee. Filling our water bottles, we made it slowly as the path took a turn to the left bringing into view the towering peak in the west.

View from the Tadiandamol peak
View from the Tadiandamol peak

The next stop on the trail was a huge boulder which used to be a camping spot for trekkers. This is also the last point of water source on the trail. Trudging on open grassy slopes followed by a dense patch of shola, we were almost on the summit, which is a twin peak joined by a small column. With deep verdant valleys going down in all directions, the views all around from the top were simply marvellous. With a whiff of cool breeze and mild sunshine, it was sheer bliss to be there.

The downclimb was easy. Taking a short break, we walked back to Nalknad to board a bus towards Virajpet.

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