Since childhood I have a fascination for rivers. Both mine and my maternal uncle’s villages where I spent most part of my childhood were surrounded by rivers. I can write volumes about my adventures and playful activities associated with rivers.
The story of the river is also the story of its people. All ancient civilisations were founded beside rivers. In India rivers are considered sacred and have been revered since time immemorial.
Coming to the river Kaveri, during my stay in Tamilndu and Karnataka, I have visited almost all the prominent places of interest dotting the river in its 765 km journey from Talakaveri to Puhar. So I could write a series of blog posts about my visits around Kaveri. Or even a book. But in this blog post I will restrict myself to a few selected places and events.
My proposed travel series will not be complete without visiting those few missed places. So, to connect all the missing dots and to fulfill my spirit of adventure I have an unchecked item in my bucket list – to take a leisurely bike journey along the river from its beginning to the end. It seems this year too I may have to give it a miss.
Kaveri is no less a sacred river than Ganga or Godavari. In its journey through the varied landscapes of Karnataka and Tamilnadu, it also becomes river of discord as it crosses the border. The river has been exerting considerable influence in the lives of the people of these two states by virtue of its numerous places of faith and amusement on its river banks, by being a prominent source of water and sometimes due to the number of bandhs and political activities it stirs.
One such bandh caught us by surprise way back in 1991. Then I was stationed in Bangalore. We had gone on a follow up honeymoon tour to Puducherry. Buses and trains between the two states were stopped. Thankfully, there was no such restriction on travelling to Andhra and from Andhra to Karnataka. So we headed to Tirupati. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We spent a couple of days there. We suspect that our first child was conceived in Tirupati. That is how the river has played an important, albeit indirect, role in watering our family tree.
Even though my first encounter with the river happened about three decades back, it was a couple of years back that I was able to see the origin of the river at Talakaveri. Like all important rivers of India, the origin of Kaveri too is a place of pilgrimage.
When we reached Talakaveri, we were beguiled by the quirkiness of nature. When we reached the place it was all sunshine providing a clear view of the distant mountain peaks. By the time we got down after reversing and parking our vehicle, we were engulfed by thick clouds. You couldn’t see even a meter ahead.
As one travels down from Talakaveri, the next place of interest is Bhagamandalam, the first place of Sangam on river Kaveri. People come here to conduct Shradha – the Hindu ritual for expressing gratitude to the departed ancestors. The next Sangam on Kaveri is near Srirangapatnam. The myths associated with these places are similar to that of Prayag on river Ganga. The advantage is that in case you are not able to go to Prayagraj, you can derive similar spiritual benefit by going to one of its local versions.
In India, all prominent places or circuits of pilgrimage have their regional and sometimes sub-regional and sub-sub-regional versions. Diana L Eck, in her book, ‘India-a Sacred Geography’, dwells at length about this aspect.
The first segment of Kaveri is through Coorg or Kodava region. Apart from Tourism, Coorg is famous for coffee, its own unique cuisine and tales of heroism.
Majority of the tourist attractions in Coorg are near the course of the river. The speed of the river in this region is good for river rafting and there are plenty of spots beside the river where this adventure is offered by private parties.
If you are travelling from Bangalore to Medikaeri via the Mysore route, Kushalnagar is a good place to make the first night stop. The Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe is nearby. The Namdroling Monastery situated here is the largest teaching center of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Other places of interest are Harangi Dam, Chiklihole Reservoir, Nisargadham and the Dubare Elephant Camp which is also a popular starting point for river rafting.
After Kushal Nagar, the next interesting place on Kaveri is the Chunchanakatte Falls. It is around 50 kilometers from Mysore. It is also a popular weekend getaway for the bengalurean. The waterfall here that makes a lot of noise is linked to the nearby Ram temple whose sanctum sanctorum is an abode of silence and where Sita is on the right side of Rama contrary to the usual practice.
During his vanabasha days, Rama accepted the hospitality of a tribal couple. Not able to find a proper bathing place and water for Sita-mate, Lakshman stuck his arrow on a rock and commanded that water gush forth. So it happened and as a mark of gratitude to the hosts Chuncha and Chunchi, the waterfall was named as Chunchankatte falls.
When the idols were consecrated, another thing (apart from being put on the left side of his wife) that did not go down well with the Lord was that he was disturbed by the constant nagging of his wife. So using divine will, he muted the atmospheric sound inside the sanctum sanctorum. That is the reason one does not hear the loud noise of the nearby waterfall.
Quite often in our country, folklore and social stereotypes merge with mythologies to give a local twist even to the legends of divine descent.
Karnataka is full of popular tourist destinations. I think the Bengaluru – Mysore tourist circuit must be the most popular among them. At the end of this post I have given the links to some of my earlier posts about travel in Karnataka.
Two places in Karnataka near river Kaveri have strange similarities with my native district in Odisha. During the billboard days of Bengaluru (now there is a High court ban on putting hoardings in the city), when once I saw an advertising of a store named Ganjam Jewellery, I was happy thinking that someone from my district had opened his chain of stores here. But on further enquiry I learned that there is a place called Ganjam in Mandya district of Karnataka. Mandya is basically an agricultural district, ragi being one of its main crops.
My native district in south Odisha is called Ganjam and it is perhaps the only district where ragi is popular. Guess what, we used to call ragi as Mandia. Actually we used to be so notorious ragi eaters that sometimes people of northern districts used to tease us by referring to us not as Ganjami but as Mandia.
It is quite possible that in the distant past some trader from Karnataka introduced ragi to our area. After the traders left people forgot the name of the item but remembered that these traders were from Mandya.
PS : This is the eleventh post of my April A to Z challenge 2020. My theme this year is ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh’ where in I explore various facets of India and also some places and events of India I have been closely associated with.
All posts of the AtoZChallenge can be accessed here.