Bengaluru: Coorg cradled in the lap of the Western Ghats is known by many names. Mercara, a name it inherited following British rule. Also, it may be the Brits to thank after all, to have tagged Coorg as the ‘Scotland of India’. Similarly, Kodagu and Madikeri are also the monikers by which this small hill district in Karnataka has gained popularity over the years. The tranquil nature is blessed with mild weather (mostly swaying to the colder side), wildlife and Kodavas, the warrior people of Kodagu. From waterfalls, viewpoints, lakes and parks to trekking trails, Coorg offers everything that is required for a perfect holiday.
From waterfalls, viewpoints, lakes and parks to trekking trails, the tranquil nature at Coorg offers everything that is required for a quintessential holiday experience
Coorg’s unique location, makes it a part of the biosphere which also has pristine flora and fauna of Wayanad, Mudhumalai and Bandipur. Over the years, Coorg has gained popularity along with Wayanad, Mudhumalai and Bandipur. In fact, for the people of Bengaluru, Coorg is a perennial quick weekend getaway.
For several years now, agriculturists from nearby States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been migrating to Madikeri, for its soil is well suited for the cultivation of cardamom, coffee and pepper. Coffee plantations owned by foreigners and Indians dot the hill roads leading up to Coorg. The ‘Manager’s Bungalow’ signboards in front of coffee plantations are reminiscent of the old British style of running the plantations. They are privately owned estates which do not really encourage trespassers, unless such estates are the hosts in the hospitality business. Hiking, cross-country, or driving down mountain trails in Coorg, the visitors will witness the panoramic views of mist rolling down thickly forested hill slopes and the undulating paddy fields resplendent under the blue skies.
Holidays in Madikeri are incomplete, without having seen the sunset from the legendary Raja’s Seat (King’s Seat), which to the Kodavas here is a place of adulation. If the fog billows away, the view of sunset from the Raja’s Seat is nothing less than a spectacle. According to the legends in Coorg, Kings of Coorg and their consorts, came to the spot in the evenings to watch the pleasant spectacle of sunset. The Raja’s Seat is a small square shaped roofed structure made from brick and mortar and protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Coorg is also the birthplace of the River Cauvery, known as Thala Cauvery in the hill district. It is also the home of some of India’s bravest soldiers like Field Marshall Kodandera Madappa Cariappa, Kodendera Subayya Thimayya and many more who have made remarkable contributions to the Indian Armed Forces. ‘Field Marshal Cariappa’ is the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army and brought laurels to his homeland. Their statues have been installed in the center of Madikeri town.
HISTORY OF COORG
Not much is known about the early history of Kodagu, as it was known in the years before the 19th century. From AD 1600 onwards, the Lingayat rajas ruled over Coorg and established their capital at Madikeri where they built a mud fort. The Kodavas, as the people of Coorg are called, harried the Mysore ruler Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan through sporadic rebellions. Finally, in AD 1785, Tipu marched into Coorg with a large army and devastated their little kingdom. Four years later, with the help of the British, Coorg regained its independence and Raja Veerarajendra set about the task of reconstruction. In AD 1834, the British took over power in Coorg.
It is believed that the Kodavas trace their ancestry to the Arabs. In line with the Arabs the traditional costume worn by the men of Coorg is a long black coat or kuppia, bearing a striking resemblance to the kuffia worn by the Arabs. Besides, it is also rumoured that Kodavas include warrior-like people who are the descendants of the Greek mercenaries who accompanied when Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 BC.
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Popular Tourist Attractions in Madikeri
While Coorg is a place of thick forests, coffee plantations and beautiful waterfalls, there is a place that holds historical importance. It is the Madikeri Fort that has its share of royal importance in the pages of history. The fort even today speaks of several moments of victory and also defeat.
It was originally built of mud by King Mudduraja of Haleri dynasty during the 17th century and later rebuilt by Tipu Sultan in granite. Later eras saw it being rebuilt again by Lingarajendra Wodeyar II and the British. The fort is a unique example of Gothic style in the form of its Anglican Church built in 1855. Addition of secret paths makes it mysterious as well. The palace like fort also has an exhibition of several artefacts and historical weapons.
Tadiandamol is said to be the highest peak in Kodagu, standing tall at 1748 m above the sea level. There are also a number of adventurous activities that spark interest among tourists who visit the peak.
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
The Buddhist Golden Temple, also known as the Namdroling Monastery is the place of worship of thousands of Tibetan people and monks. It is located in Bylakuppe, Kushalanagar, which is one of the largest Buddhist settlements in India. The name Golden Temple comes from the paintings and carvings of the temple that are all in the color of gold. The temple has three statues – Buddha, Padmasambhava and Amitayus, standing tall at 40 ft.
The walls of the temple have been decorated with elaborate paintings that portray the characters, gods and demons related to the Tibetan Mythology. The altar inside the temple is beautifully decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks. Customarily, incense sticks are used to pay respects and worship the gods after which one can sit on the carpets spread out within the monastery to meditate and breathe in the peaceful air of spirituality circling within the temple.
The Omkareshwara Temple was built in devotion to Lord Shiva. The temple sees a large number of devotees and tourists who visit the temple to seek some peace and enlightenment. The temple has the statue of Shivalingam placed at the entrance and a water tank is with lots of fish. This is a famous location for pilgrimages
CAUVERY NISARGADHAMA FOREST PARK
Nisargadhama is a forest resort on an island, maintained by the forest department of Karnataka. Cauvery Nisargadhama Forest Park is undeniably one of the most beautiful and enjoyable parts of any Coorg tour packages. Formed by the main river of the region, River Cauvery, it is surrounded by dense forest. A popular weekend getaway in itself, it is situated quite close to Kushalanagar, with just 3 km distance between them. It presents an excellent opportunity for tourists to have a close interaction with nature.
Visitors can enter the reserve through the new hanging bridge, which is not to be confused with the old hanging bridge which is no more functional. When at Nisargadhama Forest, you will find a wide variety of things to do and see. Elephant ride is something that adults and kids alike will enjoy. There is also a deer park and rabbit park that one can visit.
To feel a sense of excitement from the torrent of water gushing out, visit the Abbey Falls that ensures a thrilling experience. This holiday spot attains its peak during the monsoon season between July and October. The 70 ft. high waterfall is located 8 km away from Madikeri which is recognized as one of the attractive tourist places in Madikeri town. The waterfall is spotted between private coffee plantations and spice estates and reaches the river Cauvery. Hence, this could be the perfect place for photography buffs to get some awe-inspiring shots seamlessly.
DUBARE ELEPHANT CAMP
Karnataka is famous for its elephants and the Dubare training facility is a delightful experience for any animal lover. And it’s not just elephants, one can also spot leopards, gaurs, bears, peacocks and partridges in the surrounding forests. Guests can indulge in activities like river rafting, kayaking and angling.
Coorg Fact File
Location: Western Ghats of South-West Karnataka
District Headquarters: Madikeri
Tourism Season: Throughout the Year
Tourism Season (Peak): November to May
Area: 4102 sq. km. (1584 sq. mi.)
Highest Elevation: 1750 m (5740 ft) – Tadiandamol
Main Cities/Towns: Madikeri, Virajpet, Somwarpet, Kushalanagar, Gonikoppal
Languages: Kodava Tak, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu and English
Monsoon: June to October (Heavy rain between July and August)
Shopping Items: Coffee, Honey, Spices and Home-made Chocolates
- By Air: Mangalore International Airport is the nearest, which is around 140 km from Madikeri. Regular flights connect Mangalore to Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Gulf countries
- By Rail: Nearest railheads are at Hassan, Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Kannur, and Thalassery, each of which is around 115 km away from Madikeri. Tourists can even catch trains from Mangalore and Mysore, approximately 140 km away
- By Road: Madikeri is around 120 km from Mysore and Mangalore and is well-connected through road with cities like Bengaluru, Coonoor and Uppala. Regular buses & taxis connects Madikeri to places like Hassan, Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Kannur and Thalassery
- Best Time To Visit: Madikeri is a hilly destination, which remains calm and pleasant throughout the year. However, if you want to experience the misty weather of this place, plan your visit in the months of winter i.e. November to February
THINGS-TO-DO IN MADIKERI
- Tourists can visit this beautiful destination to take part in festivities such as Kalipodhu, Cauvery Sankramana, Puttari, and Dasara. The famous Karaga festival, which is celebrated during Navaratri, is witnessed by a lot of tourists
- Madikeri is a famous hill station in Karnataka, which maintains a minimum temperature of 11°C in summer and 4.5°C in winter. Tourists can visit this place to enjoy its pleasant weather and lush green beauty, covering the entire hill
- Madikeri lies in the Western Ghats and is very near to places like Mysore and Mangalore. Visitors often come here to explore the coffee plantations, which is a common business here
(The author was hosted by Karnataka Tourism in connection with Karnataka International Travel Expo 2019)