Kodagu (Coorg) Information

The charming district of Kodagu nestling amidst the lush Western Ghats is popularly known as the ‘Scotland of India’ and the ‘Kashmir of the South’.  Mist mountains, verdant valleys, serpentine streams, cascading falls, thick tropical forests and miles of spice, paddy and coffee plantations makes the region a veritable paradise for nature lovers.  The name Kodagu is said to derive from a kannada word ‘Kudu’ meaning steep or hilly.  This “land of oranges, cashews, cardamoms and coffee” is also known for its distinct cultural heritage and martial traditions.

There exist some earlier references in 2000 old Tamil literature and some inscriptions dating from nearly the 8 century about the Kodagu people.  The Kodagu kings were known to retain a fair degree of their independence from major powers such as the Cholas and the subsequent dynasties.  From 1600AD onwards, the Lingayats ruled over Kodagu and established their capital at Madikeri.  the district capital was earlier known as Muddurajakeri, after Mudduraja, a king of Haleri dynasty who ruled Kodagu in the 1600s.  Kodagu (also called Coorg) became a part of the Karnataka state in 1956.  The Kodagu people, Kodavas, are known for their distinguished martial character and tradition and identified by their stately bearing and striking dress.  Kodavas make incredibly warm hosts and the region has a highly distinctive cuisine. The numerous home stays set in their beautiful coffee estates with modern facilities are renowned to provide for generous hospitality.

The capital town Madikeri (1170m) is an enchanting small place in a green mountainous expanse drained by the river Cauvery, which itself has an origin in this land.  Bamboo, sandalwood and rosewood forests with murmuring streams and rivulets set this area apart from the rest of Karnataka.  Because of its unique eco system, this region is recognized as one of the 38 richest sites of bio diversity in the world.  Driving from Kushalnagar on road from Hunsur to Madikeri you can occasionally see elephants working in the teak forests and the road passes through coffee estates with coffee bushes studded with beautiful red berries and neatly trimmed hedges along the roadside.  Pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and turmeric plantations also abound lending the landscape a distinct identity.  Madikeri (also called Mercara) located in a beautiful hilly setting surrounded by the forested slopes of the Western Ghats provides an excellent base from which to explore Kodagu.  The start fo the tourist season begins with the Merucara Dasara Festival and Cauvery Sankramana in October.

Madikeri (Mercara)

The picturesque hill resort perched at an altitude of 4000ft is the distric headquarters of Kodagu.  It was founded by Muddu Raja of the Haleri dynasty in 1681 and became the favourite resort of Britishers, as it reminded them of scenic Europe with lush hills and verdant valleys.

Raja’s Seat

This fine view point is truly spectacular during sunset time. The Raja's Seat on top of a hill was where the Kodagu royals would view the spectacular sunsets.  It offers a panoramic view of the mountain ranges and green valleys.  Adjacent to it is the ancient temple of Kundurumotte Chouti Mariyamma.  Next is a memorial dedicated to the father of the nation, Mahatama Gandhi. The joy train for the children at the Raja's Seat is an added attraction.

The Raja's Tomb (Gaddige) to the north of the town is the resting place of Virarajendra and his wife and of Lingarajendra.  Although the kings were Hindu, their monuments are Islamic with domes and trelliswork.  The windows have handsomely wrought bronze bars set in sculpted stone.  However, the entrance to each tomb has intricate carvings of Hindu deities.

Madikeri Fort

The hill top fort was built by Lingarajendra Woodeyr. Fort has small museum in St. mark’s Church. Originally, Tip Sultan rebuilt a mud fort, built during 1812-14 by Lingarajendra II in granite, and then the British added a clock tower and portico in 1933.  With its stone ramparts, a sculpture of horse mounted on walls of one of its three gateways, the fort standing on a high ground dominates the town.  While the palace houses all the important Government offices, the fort now accommodates the prison, a temple, a cathedral, a small government museum, the central library and Court.  An ancient temple dedicated to Ganesha inside the fort leads to the main road below.

Just below the fort is the Omkareshwara Temple dedicated to both Vishnu and Shiva, built in 1820 by Lingarajendra Wodiyar.  It is an interesting blend of red tile roofed Kerala architecture and Islamic style domes.  There is a large tank in front of the temple.

It is 3km from the centre of the town is Mercara Downs, one of the best-known golf courses in the state of Karnataka, and one of the toughest.

Sunticoppa is about 15km away on way to Kushalnagar. It is known for the temple of Ayyappa and popular with bird watchers.

Omkareswara Temple

This unique shrine in the middle of the lake is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.  It was built by King Lingarajendra in 1820 and is a fine blend of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture.

Madikeri Tour

Abbey Falls (5km)

The beautiful falls are surrounded by coffee and pepper plantations. The scenic Abbey or Abbi Falls about 9km from the town centre tucked away in a coffee estate and tail trees entwined with pepper vines offer a splendid backdrop for picnics.  They cascade their way down steps into limpid pools from a height of 21m to join the river Cauvery.  The foggy spray from the stream flowing over a precipice makes a misty cloud over the falls providing a rejuvenating ambience and these are a remarkable sight from a vantage point.

Bhagamandala (35km)

The pilgrim centre on the confluence of three rivers Kaveri, Kanike and the underground Suyothi is famous for Bhandeshwara temple. Bhagamandala is about 39km from Madikeri this is a temple town at the confluence of three rivers Cauvery, Kannike and the invisible Sujyoti. It is famous as Triveni Sangam.  Among the confluence of rivers dedicated to Bhagandeshwara, Vishnu, and Subrahmanya, the Bhagandeshwara Temple is particularly striking.  It stands in a large stone courtyard surrounded by Kerala style buildings on all four sides.   Pilgrims proceed to Talacauvery only after offering worship at Bhagamandala.  It is also known for its apiaries and honey.

Bylekuppe (40km)

It is one of the largest Tibetan settlements in South India and is famous for monasteries, handicrafts, carpet factories and an incense factory.

Iruppu Falls (85km)

The cascading falls descent down from a height of 170ft in two distinct states, amidst dense forest near the Rajiv Gandhi National Park (Nagarhole).  The Rameshwara Temple near the Lakshmana Theertha River, attract a large number of devotees.

Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Nagarhole (77km)

This delightful park covers an area of 284 sq km along river Kabini.  The jungles full of rosewood, teak, sandal, silver oak are a safe haven for a rich and varied wildlife.  The key fauna includes elephant, tiger, panther, gaur, deer, wild dog, langur and reptiles like king cobra etc.  One can undertake jungle safaris on elephant back.  Best season to visit is from June to October.  The Heballa elephant camp is a must visit site.

Tala Kaveri (40km)

It is the source for sacred river Kaveri, which originates on the slopes of Brahmagiri Hills.  Every year on the auspicious occasion of Tula Sankaramana (17 October), a spring of water sprouts at a particular and foretold moment.  Bathing in this water is considered to be very beneficial. Further 8km northwest of Bhagamandala is Talacauvery the origin of holy river Cauvery and hence this spot situated amidst the picturesque Brahmagiri has great religious significance.  The beautifully decorated silver lingam enshrined in a small shrine marks the spot where the river originates.  The river emerges as a perennial spring, but then flows underground again as Guptagaminii, to appear a short distance away in Bhaganda Kshetra.  On the auspicious day of Tula Sankramana on October 17 every year, thousands gather here for a sacred bath and to witness a sudden upsurge of water in a small pond at a predetermined time.

Near the temple on the slopes of the Brahmagiri stand sa vantage point that offers glimpses of Kudremukh, Chamundi, Wayanad and the Nilgiri ranges.

Trekking

Madikeri and its surroundings make for beautiful walking and treks along the Cauvery and other little streams.  The most popular treks are to the high peaks of Tadiyendamol and Pushagiri (1712m), to Kotebetta and to Brahmagiri ranges of south Kodagu where a forest trail leads from Iruppu Falls to the Brahmagiri (1740m).

Valnur

Valnur is about 30km from Madikeri. The Valnur Fishing Camp is a great place for angling for Mahseer and bird watching.  Angling is strictly per catch and release philosophy, and you must toss the fish back to the waters of the river.  The Coorg Wildlife Society protects the stretch of river and issues fishing license.  A short trek from the fishing camp is Doddakalbetta (big stone Hill), whch is a great place to watch the sunset.  Some private operators also arrange for an assortment of treks to some enchanting locale in the valleys of the picturesque Western Ghats.

Virajpet

Virajpet is about 4km after Hunsur  on SH 88, a turn takes one to th small town of Virajpet through Titimati and Gonikoppal. It is reputed to be the largest producer of honey in Asia.  The town is also known for several davarakadus (sacred grove) highlighting the close link between its people and the nature. Among the sights worth a visit are the St Anne's Church having a beautiful 60m steeple; the century old clock tower; and the tranquil Perambady Lake; the town of Kadanga (7km).  The festivities associated with temples of Bhagavathi and Bhadrakali and the Barana Namme in the village of Kandangala is a big draw for visitors.

It is 17km to the east of Virajpet, Gonikoppal is the headquarters of the Coorg Adventure Club, run by retired army officers and adventure enthusiasts offering activities like paragliding, windsurfing, parasailing, and water sports.

Nisargadhama

Nisargadhama is about 36km from Madikeri or 2km from Kushalnagar this breathtakingly beautiful island was carved by diverting the river Cauvery. This sprawling 64-acre nature resort offers elephant and boat rides and has river side cottages.  Nisargadhama teems with lush foliage, thick bamboo groves, teak and rosewood.

Harangi Dami is about 8km from Nisargadhama.  The Harangi Dam is built across the tributary of river Cauvery is located in a beautiful natural locale and ideal for picnics and short walks.  Nearby is the largest Tibetan settlement in India at Bylakuppe.

Dubare

Lying on the south bank of the Cauvery in the easer Kodagu, Dubare Forest is one of the major attractions of Karnataka.  The activities revolving around the river Cauvery include angling, swimming; and trekking through the dense woods. 

A unique eco tourism destination, 15km from Kushalnagar, Dubare is famed for its elephant camp.  It was traditionally the training camp of the elephants for the famous Mysore Dasara Festivities.  Today, the camp is a centre for study of elephant behavior, run by state owned Jungle Lodges and resorts. A naturalist provides information on the various aspects of elephant history, ecology, and biology.  The 3-hour interaction programme involves a bathing ritual in the Cauvery were you get to scrub an elephant an later feed it with jiggery, banana, and coconut followed by a 45min ride into the jungle.  Phone: 080-40554055.

Pollibetta (12km from Siddapur), Tithiimati (23km), Chettalli (15km), and Gonikoppal (8km) together form the core of this area abundant with coffee.

Chettalli has the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research and the Coffee Research substation.  Run by Tata Coffee, Pollibetta has an exclusive nine hole golf course.

Unchalli Falls

Unchalli Falls is about 35km from Siddapur via Kolsisi, these falls were located by J D Lushington, the collector of Karwar then in 1845.  The river Aghanashini formed by the streams of Shankatirtha and tank of Manjuguni flows thorugh the ghats before jumping into the deep valley at Unchalli, creating a thunderous sound.  The falls are also known as Keepa Joga.

Somwarpet

Somwarpet is about 30km from Madikeri via Madapr, this is good base to explore the north of Coorg and trek to the foothills of Pushpagiri.  Another option is to drive to Mallahalli Falls.

Kakkabe

It is a small town 35km from Madikeri that provides access to the highest peak in Coorg.  Tadiyendamol (1750m).  The trek passes through thick rainforest and scenic terrain.  On a clear day, Thaiyendamol provides a view of the distant Arabian Sea and the enchanting beauty of the whole of Kodagu.

About 3.5km Kakkabe is the villaege of Yavakapadi.  The Naalkunaadu Palace constructed here by the Doddaveeraraja in 1792 is a double storey structure with its 12 magnificent pillars and walls adoned with excellent carvings.  It served as the hunting lodge of the rulers of Kodagu.  The other attraction here is the visit to the settlements of the local kapala tribe.

About 2.5km from Kakkabe is the famous Padi Igguthappa Temple dedicated to Igguthappa, the defacto God who gives gran (iggu is grain in Kodava and thappa means to give).  An engraved silver elephant, a gift by Lingaraja like next to the main idol.  Thousands congregate here n March for the Kaliyaruchi Festival when the deity is taken in a procession to the top of Mallama Betta and reinstalled in the temple.  Festivites also include various ceremonial traditional dances.  The date of the harvest festival of Huthri is also finalized on this occasion here.

Kukke Subramanya

From Madikeri, the road climbs down the ghats through the plantations of rubber, coconut and cocoa and crosses a series of small towns and villages. From Sulya about 50km from Madikeri a right turn leads to the pilgrimage place of Kukke Subramanya at a distance of about 35km.  Sulya, about 80km southeast of Mangalore is a well-known education centre.  From Mangalore, Kukke Subramanya is 84km via Gundia.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Subramanya also called Kumara Swamy, another name for Karthikeya. The deity lives here along with the son of Shiva, Kumarasawamy and his wife Devasena.

Legend has it that Naga king Vasuki had undertaken a penance on the Kumara Parvatha against the backdrop of which the temple is set. Vasuki had prayed for the permanent abode of Lord kumaraswamy here, which was granted.  Both Vasuki and Kumaraswamy were carried down the hill in a basket ('Kukke' in Kannada), hence the name, Kukke Subramanya.  The main deity in silver enshrined in the sanctum is striking.  Special pujas are performed here to invoke the blessings of Subramanya especially by the childless couples and others for the grant of a boon.  Thousands congregate here for the annual temple car festival in November-December. Timings: 06.30 to 18.30.

Accommodation facilities and meals are available in the temple choultries and guesthouses. In addition, there are shrines of Samputa Narasimha, and the Somanatheshwara enshrined with a 1000 years old lingam.

The trek to Kumara Parvatha (1500 m) through the thick forests is quite popular with the trekkers.  The view from the top is quite spectacular.  Girigaddhe almost half way to the summit is popular rest point for the trekkers.  Just 3km from Kukke Subramanya, Kylukunda is the venue of popular 15-day cattle fair attracting traders from neighboring Kerala and Dakshina Kannada.

It is 28km from the temple town is Bisle Ghat, where the borders of kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Hassan districts meet.  The drive up the winding road is a visual treat with numerous cascading falls on the way.

The road from Subramanya continues along the southwest coast to pass through, Puttur tojoin NH 48 at Mani crossing the Netravathi river and on to Mangalore along the north bank of this river.

On the main NH48, about 70km from Bangalore is Kunigal and 20 km west of it is Siddhalingeshwara Temple at Yadiyur notable for an annual car festival in March-April. A turn to south of the NH8 leads to Nagamangala and about 15km from here is Kambadahalli. It is the site of 10-century Jain shrines with many features common with Chola temples of Tamil Nadu.  The main Nh48 beyond Kunigal continues to Hassan is Channarayapatna.  10km southeast of Channarayapatna is Saravanabelagola.