Sunday, September 4, 2022

Kabbe Hills and Chomakund Trek, Coorg

Unexplored Coorg (2) Kabbe Hills and Chomakund Trek
This time we had planned for Kabbe Hill trek a winter trek in Brahmagiri wildlife Sanctuary. Early in the morning, we 6 including Varali trooped into the car and were soon on our way. The winding drive began almost as soon as we left the Madikeri city. 

Our drive would take us through narrow road surrounded by coffee estates and forests. After a short drive we reached to the forest gate. We parked out vehicle soon after we set foot on the trail. There is an old forest road that makes a spur off of Kabbe hill. With the bare minimum essentials, we started to hike with the sounds of the flowing streams and chipping birds with accompany of squirrels.

After ten minute’s walk we came into sweeping lawn area situated between two hills. The first one third of the trek was a gentle climb along the unevenly laid stone path. The weather was crystalline sunny and dry, the views were breath-taking at every turn, so our spirits soared.

The next one third of the trail was steeper. The stones were cast about loosely, and there was no telling which one was firmly anchored and which one would give way. We stepped gingerly, testing the stability of each stone stepped on. 
The trail was a continuous ascend of about 30minutes that took us to the summit. The moment we reached summit; we were speechless. The view that we were seeing was beyond any imagination. We sat there and finished 2 watermelons. During my previous trek to this hill fog covered the entire peak so I had no clue how the views were from the peak. I was lucky this time that I got a small weather is clear and views were now even more spectacular. 
We enjoyed the beauty, took some photographs and headed towards next Summit. We kept going and soon entered the final one-third of the trek, which was a gradual descent in edge of the mountain towards rocky hill. Thick trees and spiky bushes made questing off path difficult.
This was undoubtedly the best part of the trek. This is also a place for rock scrambling over the large boulders from the summit.
From top we treated to views of beautiful Udumbe forest valley as you look to the west edge of the hills and another hill Bylikere hill and Chomakundu hill ranges. On clear days you can see portion of villages of Kerala state that sit many miles to the west. With an amazing view, brought me out of the temporary dream I was living in, back to reality.
The downward trek, especially the middle third, was even more treacherous than on the way up, because this time the consequences of a misstep could cost us more dearly. We took it slow and still made it back to the old forest road. 
The downward trek, especially the middle third, was even more treacherous than on the way up, because this time the consequences of a misstep could cost us more dearly. We took it slow and still made it back to the old forest road. 
We decided to climb an adjacent hill that look less tall, soon after we followed the forest road towards the Kabbe Hill view point. It took us half an hour to reach the view point. This place also called as 1st stage of Chomakundu Hill. We need to climb two more hills to reach Chomakunda or Choma Bett peak. 
That moment I was just awestruck by the huge Kabbe Hill standing behind us and Chomakund hill from another side of the view point. Few tourists there on Kabbe view point and fog cleared up and revealed the magnificent landscapes with no time fog took over the entire landscape. The clouds have started to darken indicating it was time to leave. The way down was adventurous as the path was quite slippery and everyone fell at least once. 
On our way back, we visited Haluhole falls and Chelavara falls. We need to do little bit of trekking to reach both the falls. We were able to see the falls from the distance. We took photos there and came back to Kakkabe village. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Thor Waterfalls: A soul southing gem of Coorg

Unexplored Coorg (Part 1)Thor Falls

Coorg is constantly rated as one of the best hill-station in South India with amazing trekking, camping, mountains, mysteries waterfalls, cooling rivers, and beautiful waterfalls. South Coorg has always held my imagination because of its Beautiful Mountains, dense forests, wildlife and mysteries Waterfalls. I’ve been trying to visit this isolated waterfall but for one reason or the other I’ve never been able to make it. But this time, everything went as per the plan. 

We were a group of six, completed short trek in a first half of the day and decided to go this unexplored Thor waterfalls. I drove the car to the far end of the village and legs take over, three of locals joined our team to guide us. A couple of hours trek from the nearest village would take me to this hidden paradise. A major part of the trek takes us through thick forest and coffee estates with the river running parallel to us and sometimes crisscrossing through our route.

The initial trail wasn’t very tough. We crossed few small brooks & private coffee estates. The trail was well worn inside the coffee estates and after half an hour walk, we entered thick jungle terrain. On the way, we caught sight of a troop of monkeys making their way through the treetops. By the time I clicked my camera they had moved on, so instead of fruitlessly capturing a photo, I just watched them in their glory. We saw a few beautiful birds too. Our guide warned us about wild elephants & taken very attentive and precautionary steps throughout the journey. There are elephants in the jungle & coffee estates. We didn’t see any elephants but did see plenty of fresh evidence where they had crashed through the jungle. 

I didn’t anticipate that this trek would be much of a challenge especially since the last half but I was wrong. This hike was stressful, challenging, leech infested & exhilarating all at the same time. Walking through the bamboo forest way is exciting, you never know what you are going to come across next my heart beat had increased as there can be snakes, elephants, wild pigs, Bisons still kept on moving.

Our trail had opened up at the edge of the hill we can hear the sound of the waterfall from down but our local guides unable to find an easy way to reach the base. We almost missed the waterfall between deep woods. 

My friends and I looked at each other hesitantly. To get to the base of the waterfall, we were going to have to embrace our inner Indiana Jones but somewhat I felt uncomfortable not because I'm carrying a Kid. She is a brave girl she hold tight and I opted to go down last as I worked up the courage. 

However, we didn’t encounter too many steep drop-offs and soon I was vying to the lead the way. Last stretch we scaled the rocky sides of the waterfall, holding on to vines as we made our way down to the base. It was grueling, especially walking down the edge of the waterfall and trying to grab on to anything stationary, like roots of trees. As the destination approached, we could hear the faint rush of the waterfalls.

Finally reached near enough to the water falls, we could feel the splash and it was awesome. At first glance the wide falls making their way between the towering rocks into the sublime waters and look like a drop of heaven. The beauty of the waterfall which it’s impossible to divert attention to anything but the surroundings! I can’t praise this place enough. A few of us climbed to huge boulders to reach top of the waterfalls to get some panoramic photo of the falls and valley.

I’ve been to many waterfalls in Coorg but this trekking remains in my mind ever, the highlight of this trek is that my one and half year-old Varali accompanied us to explore such a wonderful waterfall in a tough jungle terrain.

When it was all said and done, our hike had lasted a little over four hours. Though tiring this trek was the most exciting in my recent memory. I left this waterfall with a sense of rawness. Here the lack of people & trails let you feel as if you are exploring the jungle for the first time. 

I love the moments when you travel that make you feel as if you have unearthed a hidden gem. As though you had found somewhere or someplace long forgotten by man. That may not be the case but that sense of wonderment, adventure & exploration are what drive me on my travels & it was just me, the jungle & that sense of adventure.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Symphony of heritage in Ramanathapura, Hassan

Ramanathapura, was an ancient religious centre located on the bank of the river Kaveri and is considered as one of the famous pilgrimage centres in Hassan district. It formed a part of Chola, Hoysala & Vijayanagara kingdoms.Traditionally famous as the Dakshina Kashi and Agasthya Kshetra. This place because sacred and it was the natural choice of the kings to perform the various spiritual activities in ancient time, however it is famous as a sacred and pilgrim place because of the River Kaveri and Sri Rameshvara Temple.

There are many temples on this village of Rameshwaraswamy temple, Prasanna Subramanya Temple, Agasteshwara temple, Pattabhirama Temple, Lakshmi Narasimha Tempe, Anjaneya Temple, Durgarameshavri Temple which are prominent. All the temples are built in Dravidian style. The best part of this village is that you can explore many other holy shrines around the vicinity that are well-connected to each other through walking distance. This is the reason the place is also known as the town of temples. This ancient Ramanathapura village is also known by various names such as Samvartakapuri, Vahnikapura and Tretapura.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Agni Deva (Vahni) performed a prayer in middle of the river Cauvery to wash off the curse of sage Bhrigu. The place is called Vahni Pushkarini. This Thirthasnana place is situated in middle of River Cauvery so that it became the holiest and the greatest of all Thirthas in South India. Devotes used to take a holy dip in this place before visiting the temples. The reason being, they believe that doing this will wash away all their sins. Devotees are also seen performing various rituals on the bank of the river Cauvery. There is a place like Kapila Shil where, saint Vishvamitra performed a prayer, it is said that chanting one Gayathri Mantra is equal to 1000 times in this place. There is one more place called Bhogarbha in this river were Kamadeva disturbed Shukracharya’s meditation and cursed him and made him as a stone
Sri. Vyasaraya swamy from Sosale Muth has established Vyasanjaneya Swamy Temple at bank of River Kaveri, Agasteswara Temple situated on left attaching to this temple. This is 560 years old Anjaneya temple constructed on a small area the main building of the temple has one Garbhgriha with 6 feet height Anjaneya idol.

Agasteswara Temple:
Agasteswara temple is believed that it has been constructed by sage Agastya. When Kaveri left sage Agastya, he followed the river from Bhagamandala and reached to Ramanathapura. He established this temple and worshiped God Shiva here. Inside the second Prakara there is a separate beautiful shrine for Mother Kaveri.   

Like a diamond inside the star this temple sits in the center of a majestic star shaped platform, the temple faces east and consists of a mandapa, navaranga and antarala or sukanasi. It is constructed in ekakuta style, consisting of one Garbhagrha (sanctum) which is provided with antarala. The temple has one entrance and a grand compound wall. 

Pattabhirama temple:
Pattabhirama temple is just a plain structure with beautiful Rajagopura. It is situated at heart of the village, 1km away from the Rameshwara temple here Lord Rama siting with goddess Sita on his lap. Bharat and Shatrughan behind holding with Chamara and God Hanuman on right side and Lakshmana on left side. There is no other idol in this kind exists in India and also three temples in India where Sita sat on Ram’s lap including this.

The idol of Pattabhirama temple is believed that it has been constructed by a sage Saubari the son of Kanva Rishi. Soubhari lived under water for twelve years when a king Mandhata was ruling the area. One day, Soubhari came across the king when king playing in the water with his children and grandchildren. This made Soubhari to feel that, he too should get married and to have children and grandchildren. He then married all the fifty daughters of Mandhata and settled. 

The car festival of this temple is on Mrigashira Ramanuja Saptaha. The Dwarapalakas at the entrance of the Gopura are beautifully sculptured. They stand tall to add grandeur to the hall.

Lakshmi Narasimha Tempe: The Lakshminarasimha temple was built during the reign of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar. The ground plan of the temple is slightly peculiar. The temple has undergone a lot of reconstructions and has lost its original look. From the inscription it becomes clear that Rameshvara was a great Shiva centre. Sri Adi Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya and later Dhvita Saints also visited this holy place. 

Prasanna Sri Subramanya Swamy Temple: The Subramanya Temple has an interesting tale. 460 years ego Vibhudesha Theertharu Swamiji of Kukke Subramanya Matha started to travel towards Coorg to spread Madhva philosophy. During this tour he established Subramanya Temple at Sorlabbi. Then he visited Ramanathapura and stayed there for meditation and pooja. After completion of his pooja and meditation, he stayed at Sankranthi Mantapa. When he slept in the night, Lord Subramanya swamy appeared in his dream and ordered to construct a temple here. At the same time God Subramanya swamy appeared in the dream of Holenarasipura king Narasappa Nayaka. The God ordered him to give all support and co-operation required for the establishment of the temple with an assurance of male baby.

Then King Narasappa Nayaka met Swamiji and started to construct a new temple for Sri Subramanya swamy as per the directions given by Swamiji, thus a new and beautiful temple was constructed as wished by Subramanya Swamy. From this achievement the Swamiji becomes cheerful and satisfied hence he called the temple as Prasanna Subramanya Swamy Temple.

At the same time wife of Narasappa Nayaka blessed with a male child, finally Sri Vibhudesha Theertharu continued to worship the god until the end of his life. This temple is very famous and sacred as similar to Kukke Subramanya. The installed deity is made from black Saligrama stone. The idol consists of seven hoods. Soil taken from anthill is the main Prasadam here.

Rameshwaraswamy Temple: Ramanathapura is also connected with the story of Ramayana. Another interesting story linked to Lord Rama and Anjaneya himself visited this place and worshiped Shiva here. After killing Ravana on his return from Srilanka Lord Rama offered prayers to lord shiva to remove all his Brahmahatya sins by killing Ravana. 

The name of the town has however been derived from the famous Rameshvara Temple of this place. A portion of the historical Rameshwaraswamy temple tower has been damaged due to the incessant rains in 2019 due to this temple was closed for public visits. Rameshvara Temple stand as testimony to the architectural magnificence of the Chola and Hoysala ages in the history of medieval India. The temple also excels in artistic sculpture. Besides the finely carved pillars inside, the ornate gopura and intricately latticed walls with rows of parakeets above Mantapas are eye-catching. 
The familiar sight here is the children offering beaten rice and groundnuts for fish in the water. Village Panchayat, Local Youth Club and Society for Advancement of Aqua culture have created awareness among general public about the importance of protecting the sanctuary. Tor khudree one of the endangered fishes are found in the area.  The whole area is declared as a protected zone H.H, the Maharaja of Mysore, under the ‘Provisions' of Section 5(1) of the Mysore Game and Fish Preservation Reg. 11 of 1901, declared it as ‘Fishing Prohibited Area. 
During monsoon, the river floods the area and during summer, there shall be very low water level as a result of which distress conditions prevails for the fishes in the sanctuary. The construction of Harangi dam has reduced flow of water in the river and in summery months, it reaches a very low level. The depth is reduced due to siltation and also on account of accumulation of debris. When the water level reduces in the river, certain body parts of the fishes get exposed and are subjected to injury and disease which has proved fatal on many occasions.  Larger sized fishes have declined and population wise too, they have reduced in numbers. Torkudree are very much on the decline and Neolissochilus hexagonolepis are in large numbers in the sanctuary; in the interest of protecting the endangered, it is necessary to replenish these from other areas of the river.