Coorg always fascinated me and when we went to Mysore on a holiday, we included a visit to Coorg as well. We preferred to motor down the distance of 120 kilometres.
The district of Coorg or Kodagu has three taluks – Madikere, Virajpet and Somwarpet. Madikere, which is the district headquarters of Coorg, is the main tourist attraction with its misty hills, lush forests, nearby coffee plantations and paddy fields besides a few places for sightseeing.
After driving nearly for three hours we came across a Tibetan village, Bylakuppe near Kushalnagar. As we entered it through the narrow long winding road, we found there were four Tibetan camps spread out in a large area with road marks directing to each camp. It was interesting to watch the women folk going about their work oblivious to the presence of passers-by. One whole street was lined with small shops which sold locally made goods ranging from gorgeous carpets with dragon designs at the centre, woolen clothing, handicrafts of all kinds, hand bags and pouches and what not. We found it difficult to converse with shop keepers as they knew no other language but their own. We managed to pick up some trinkets at a reasonable price. We proceeded to the Golden Temple, built in the Tibetan style and on entering it found 40 feet high idols of Gautama Buddha at the centre and those of his disciples on either side, all in shining yellow metal. The subdued lighting in the monastery and the fragrance of flowers permeating the air provided the right ambience for one to pray and meditate. I tried to talk with a few monks present there but again language proved a barrier. I was happy that photography was permitted. Resuming our journey we stopped at another monastery but found it was closed. There were a row of rooms inside the compound where the refugees lived. It appeared Panchan Lama stayed in the building nearby during his visit to this place.
Coffee plantations and pepper trees were very much in evidence as we were approaching Madikere. At the end of over five hours which included three halts, we reached Rajbhavan, ( which looked like a house converted into a hotel ) just in time for lunch. Lunch was a great disappointment as the menu comprised more non-vegetarian fare than vegetarian. Opposite to this hotel was “Raja’s Seat” in the midst of a lovely park. It is believed Kings of Kodagu with their families spent their evenings enjoying viewing the spectacular sunset from the top of the hill situated at the boundary of the town. Hence this viewpoint came to be known as Raja’s Seat. We could have a splendid view of the western ghats from this park. However children who came to enjoy the ride in the toy train had to go back disappointed as it was canceled for some reason.
Abbey Falls is another attraction here with nearly one kilometer pedestrian path lined with coffee and pepper trees on either side .We found it a delight to walk amidst all the greenery. When we were approaching the Falls, we expected to hear the roar of waters cascading down in a thick stream from a height of seventy feet but there were no such gushing sounds. Instead, the sight of water trickling down in a wafer thin stream before us came as our greatest disappointment .It was yet another year the locals experienced monsoon failure.
Omkareshwara temple in Madikere is unique in that there is a combination of Islamic and Gothic styles of architecture with a tank built facing it. It is built by Lingaraja in 1820. The Sivalinga installed in the temple is believed to have been brought from Kasi.
A visit to Madikere is not complete without seeing Bhagamandala and Tala Cauvery, which is 48 kilometers from Madikere. Sri Bhagandeshwar temple is built in the Kerala style and interestingly the rituals and worship followed in this temple as well as in Tala Cauvery are similar to those that are followed in Kerala temples. The place has assumed significance as the sacred rivers – Cauvery, Kannike and Sujyothi meet here. Hence the place is popularly known as Triveni Sangama.
The source of the river Cauvery, Tala Cauvery is on the slopes of the Brahmagiri Hills, a part of the Western Ghats in Kodagu district. It is located at a height of 1535 meters from the sea level. There are two temples here – one is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and the other to Lord Siva. Interestingly, even though Cauvery is worshipped as the Divine Mother by millions of devotees, there is no temple dedicated to her for worship at Tala Cauvery. According to the Puranas, Cauvery is worshipped in the form of holy water only. This holy water pond, the Brahma Kundika reverentially called as Sri Cauvery Kundika, is itself Her abode. Regular worship is offered at this small pond. On the day of the “Tula Sankramana” which falls in the month of October, at an auspicious moment the water in this holy pond raises and this is indicated by a sudden upsurge. At the adjoining bigger tank called Sri Cauvery Punya Snana Kola, pilgrims take a holy bath. The adventurous among the devotees venture to climb the Brahmagiri Hills ( a height of about 300 feet) where the Sapthamaha Rishis are believed to have performed Yagna at its peak. In fair weather one can just savour the scenic beauty in and around these hills.
On our return journey, we stopped at Cauvery Nisargadhama, a wonderful picnic spot just two kilometers from Kushalnagar. The island is surrounded by the quiet flowing Cauvery river, with a hanging bridge built across it and well equipped thatched and tree top houses appeared an ideal getaway for peace lovers. Children were seen having their share of fun with elephant and boat rides while watching deer prancing about the whole place.
N Meera Raghavendra Rao