Monsoon wanderings – Uttara Karnataka

CARPE DIEM: SIEZE THE DAY . The Latin saying in retrospect may somewhat signify what I was feeling when I set out for the trip but after having completed it am not sure in which category do I place it .. was it a calling of the western Ghats in the monsoons or was it a love of the waterfalls and empty lonely roads or was I led to visit the abode of Hindu Mythology seeing with these eyes their presence in full glory and hear about the deeds done by them in the age that has gone by ….


The trip was designed to take me through the dependable NH 4 transgressing in to SH 1 , 37 , 63 and 93 ride my luck on the treacherous NH 17 in monsoons,  look from close  the fury of the Jog falls and Onake Abbi falls , feel the celestial presence of Devi Mookambica at Kollur,  listen to the words of the Shivaites and Vaishnavites at Murudeswara and Udupi , have a up-close glimpse of the mythical rivers of Uttara Karnataka while trying to reach the sangam of the sisters Tunga and Bhadra as they merge  and see the birth of  sacred Tungabhadra in front of my eyes . This trip was to take me into the wild life sanctuaries of Mookambika and Kurdremukh while I trek to Kodachadri in search of Sanjeevana peetha temple amongst cloud covered peaks of the Sahyadris. This trip was meant to be much more and it offered me more than I imagined it would …

# DAY I : Mumbai – Dharwad ( distance : 570 km )

The monsoon had just hit Mumbai a couple of days before and the rains were in fact lashing the city for the last 48 hours and I remember having  spent quite a few evenings looking at the Indian Met website to trend the progress of the monsoon for this was after all a monsoon sojourn in to the Western Ghats  J..The route was supposed to be on the NH 4/AH47 towards Satara, Belgaum and beyond crossing the Khambatkini Ghats. This was second visit to the Khambatkini Ghats and the first medium sized trip in terms of a proper photographic shoot happening all the time.

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Satara was reached in the early afternoon  and we had thali lunch total Maharastrian style at a small Udupi eatery. Many am sure will agree that whatever negatives this country has amongst the numerous positives is the varied delicacy available in different parts of the country and that too at small eateries with no fancy frills attached. The lunch was finished off with a nice meetha Paan J as we contemplated the traffic zipping on the highway just ahead of us, it was a pure light headed satisfied moment with thoughts of the road ahead , the promise of the obscure places and the feeling of a good lunch .

Post crossing Kolhapur we were at the Maharastra-Karnataka RTO check. The impression about the roads in this part of Karnataka at least to my experience was excellent with wide open highways zipping through lush fields on both sides and yes windmills !! scores of them, is it possible that Karnataka has found a way of augmenting the electricity woes? I am not sure but they sure were many dotted on the horizon, their big blades rotating away merrily in the monsoon atmosphere which presented a wonderful sight indeed.

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I am not sure how many have experienced this … the feeling of just sitting next to a long winding highway in the evening with fields stretching in to the distance on both sides and intermittent traffic zooming on with the monsoon sunset coming on as clouds black and heavy gather and then the fat water droplets start falling on you as u see the rains approaching from the distance. Priceless I tell you to experience a moment like this.

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Dharwad was reached pretty easily and the day travel was called off. It was after quite some months that I was on the road again and like the saying goes “Once you have travelled the voyage never ends “…It felt nice to hit the bed with the promise of a new dawn tomorrow .

# DAY II : Dharwad-Jog Falls ( distance : 200 km )

It was a decent time to start on the second day considering that did not have to cover large distances. The highlight of the day was to be Sarhasalinga and Jog Falls but more on them later.The first stop was a road side eatery selling piping hot idlis and vada. For those who are used to the same in fancy restaurants I have to mention here that you are definitely missing something , the charms of road side messes and tiffin corners , relics of the bygone days are a MUST HAVE . They will never fail to delight your taste buds and fill the stomach with simple food that we as Indians have come to love.

Post the sumptuous breakfast we set our path on State Highway 1 of Karnataka towards Kalaghatgi. Now Kalaghatgi is a small town which is prominent for religious procession held on occasion of Gram Devi Jatra. The roads were awesome and the countryside straight out of Amar Chitra Katha edition, miles of green fields and lonely trees with a single shepherd hut in between. The feeling and thoughts emanating from within seeing these simple views which have become almost nonexistent in today’s humdrum life was overwhelming, memories of my childhood came rushing back pushing away the images of the city life that have clouded my mind and thoughts. As one stopped along the road and looked at fields of sugarcane, brinjal and chillies smelling the fragrance of fresh chilly on a clear rain filled morning everything suddenly fell in to perspective as to why were we out here … on a nondescript state highway in the middle of somewhere which has to be searched on the map but then when I am out here , it looks so significant unlike just a narrow line in a huge large scale map .

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From Kalaghatgi I set my sights towards Yellapur travelling on State Highway 93 on a superb tar road through rows of plantations of Teak , Betel Nuts , Gooseberries with hardly any traffic or people in fact. The road winded itself through dark forests with a green canopy covering the sky  making the sunlight work very hard to reach to the bottom of the plantations, simply excellent feeling it was . From Yellapur we moved towards Sarhasalinga on SH 93.

Sarhasaling : 1000 Shivlings , the thought of this intrigued me when I was planning my itinerary and had made up my mind to visit this place to see for myself. The place was on a diversion path 37 KM from yellapur branching off from the main State Highway snaking away into the dense foliage which surrounded the State Highway itself. After around Km 5 came to a dead end and there lay Sarhasalinga. The mythology states that King Sadashivaraya of Sirsi carved these hundreds and hundreds of Lingas and Nandi on the banks of the River Shalmala. It is believed that for every Linga carved there is a Nandi paying homage. This place was supposed to be one of the energy centres owing to the presence of the energy being generated by the scores of lingas. However considering the flooded state of the river, most of the shivlings were under water and I could see only a few handful. There is a hanging bridge on the river something similar to the ones we see in North East of India going to the other side though what lies out there is anybody’s guess. In the sleeting rain I could hardly think of crossing the swaying bridge and going on to the other side to find out more . The place though was tranquility redefined. I spent some time sitting there in the rain looking at the swollen river waters gushing past wondering where does it finally slow down. Eventually it was time to move onward towards Sirsi and Siddapur. The distance to Siddapur is around 41 km and it took us an hour to reach.

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The Western Ghats were in full glory and every turn of the road presented a different vista , a mesmerizing image of what this country has within herself .The lunch was simple local cuisine in a small yet seemingly popular restaurant. The destination for the day was reached by around 1600 hours as we checked in to Hotel Mayura Gerusoppa , a KSTDC run establishment situated at the best locale possible for someone who wants to view Jog in its full glory. The room booked was by far the best of the entire trip and in fact one of the top 5 hotel rooms that I have stayed till date. The check in was effortless as I had done a online reservation. The evening was spent among mist, clouds, monsoon showers with the mighty JOG in company throughout and it was definitely worth the travel in the rains on State Highways to experience JOG in the rains.

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# DAY III : JOG FALLS – MURUDESWARA (distance:145 km)

Today we were supposed to visit the temple town of Murudeswara but that was coming up later, right now the agenda was exploring Jog to heart’s content. JOG, India’s second Highest plunge waterfall with a fall height of over 290 meter was displaying its rising strength with each passing hour as the monsoon rains relentlessly swelled the river Saravathi . The River Saravanthi flooded with the recent rains reaches the edge of the cliff and falls in a deep chasm over 250 feet deep (and this is dangerous definitely) .JOGA, also known as Gerusoppa is divided into four falls – RAJA which is one complete unbroken fall over 250 metre meets the ROARER halfway which rushes towards it at an angle of 45 deg with heavy force and both then rush downwards into the chasm. We then have the ROCKET which shoots jets of water as it falls downwards and then there is the serene RANI which falls over the cliff in a cloud of mist and water droplets. There are steps built to reach the bottom of the falls but their permission depends on the state of the falls and the weather conditions. One can view the falls from two locations – the normal view from across the cliff where one can see the entire enclosed cliff and the the four falls distinctly and the second one is along the cliff using the series of steps built , however this is the tricky part and one has to be careful not to slip as it is a long way down in that case J. I was fortunate to witness the vigor of the falls in monsoons as they were building up their strength and the symphony of the rain and mist added to the charm .After JOG we decided to visit the nearby locations including the famed Linganamakki Dam built across the Saravanthi River , over 2.4 km long . For this we employed the services of a local guide to show us the Linanamakki dam as well as the JOG alternate route as I wanted to be safe on both the fronts. The same can be hired on location at Jog at a minimal cost.

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Post JOG we reached Murudeswara wandering through the state highways. Murudeswara is a small temple town and the name by which the town is known is another name for Lord Shiva. The sea side down on the Arabian sea boasts of one of the most beautiful beach that I have come across and more than that what draws one to this place is the Murudeswara temple and the world’s second largest Shiva Statue at over 123 feet . The temple itself is surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea. There is a Raja Gopura constructed by businessman R N Shetty which is over 23 feet and offers a spectacular view of Lord Shiva in the backdrop of the Arabian Sea. However visitors are permitted only up to 18 floors using a lift.

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The main deity of the temple is Sri Mridesa Linga and is about two feet below the ground level, the inner temple is lit by oil lamps only held by priests. There are a number of other gods worshipped within the perimeter of the main temple which included ganapati ( I saw a balck idol ganapati for the first time ) , Lord Anjeyna , the Nav Grahas which impart prosperity and good will .

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What I felt is something within me which cannot be put into pen and paper but all I can say is that it was permeating into me totally as I witnessed the Mangalaarthi performed in the evening. Our stay was at a place called Dhenu Athithiya which was an good hotel considering the town itself. The room was very economical with clean washrooms and a veg restaurant. Car parking space was available.

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# DAY IV : MURUDESWARA- KOLLUR (distance: 90 km)

I was up quite early the next day as I wished to see the morning aarthi at the temple and also click few shoots of the statue of Lord Shiva. It was a pleasant experience to walk in the temple premises early in the morning without all the day trippers present. Spent close to an hour and half and also took the lift to the 18TH floor of the Raja Gopura to see the statue in the backdrop of the Arabian Sea.

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Soon we were ready for the next phase of the trip which was towards Kollur and we were speeding away to a place called Marvanthe Beach which was eye catching owing to the amazing waves of the Arabian Sea which came right up to the highway on one side and on the other side of NH 17 we had the Sourpanika river which comes really close to the sea but then turns away once again making the place unique with the river on one side and the sea on the other.

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There is also a temple dedicated to Lord Varha , one of the ten dasavataras of Lord Vishnu. This is one of the rare temples dedicated to this avatar and we were very interested in visiting the temple. The other forms i.e tortoise, fish and crocodile are engraved in stone within the temple and we have three avatars of Lord Vishnu as the main deities. At the back of the temple the Sourpanika river joins with the Kolluru river and forms the island of Kuru which abounded with palm trees all around. The local fishermen also offer boat rides into the island and around it for a fee for those interested.

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Kollur was reached by 1330 hrs and our stay was at Beena Residency. Kollur was significant to me for two reasons, one was to visit Maa Mookambika temple and the other was to visit Kodachadri. Now Kodachadri was something that I had read on the net but did not know anyone who had visited it that frequently. I had worked out with the hotel to provide me a Jeep on hire to take me to Kodachadri.

Kodachadri is 45 km away from Kollur and it is famous for the three reasons but I would like to make it four: First is the cave where Shri Adi Shankaracharya meditated known as Sarvajnapeetha , the two temples of Maa Mooambika along with the iron pillar which legend says was the Trishul which the Devi Maa used to slay the demon Mookasura  whose  iron has still not rusted even in the moist humid climate out at the peak and the scenic beauty of Kodachadri Peak itself as it towers in front of the surrounding landscape. The additional aspect which I would like to add out here is the final 10 Kms road trip till the peak.

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I realized why only locals can drive the path for firstly there is no path and when I mean there is no path it is in the literal as well as physical sense, the vehicle was all the time in those magical 10 kms at an impossible steep angle to the ground. Honestly if I were to give an opinion of a vehicle which can undertake a journey on that jungle path, the image that would come into my mind would be mammoth wheeled off road vehicles but what were used were the Mahindra Jeep , my admiration for the drivers and the vehicle has increased many a fold. On my part I don’t think I could ever be able to confidently do what they do and to top it, it was done in the peak monsoon rains with cloud cover all around.

The drive is undertaken through Mookambika wild life sanctuary through the villages of Nittur and Kattinahole. Kattinahole is the also the last place where one can hire Jeeps. We reached the peak summit at around 1530 hours with heavy cloud cover all around. I was given two hours by the driver to trek till the Sarvajnapaatha temple which is around 3 km away .

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In evening I visited the Maa Mookambika temple for the evening Mangalaarthi, have not been in temples a lot actually and if  look back then maybe this has been the first time that I chose to visit them in close proximity (I use this phrase for lack of a better way to put it down or then maybe I could say that deep down it was ordained that I would visit them). Kollur was I don’t remember in my initial plan or not, but then it became a focal point in the later stages of planning. The more I read about the temple, the greater was the need to visit.

Mookambika temple, Kollur is one of the legendary temples of South India. The temple is a Devi temple and is unique as Sri Mookambika , is the embodiment of Maa Parvathi , Kaali and Mahalakshmi into one Adiprakashakti – Mookambika . This is nowhere else in the country and the temple is one of the holiest Siddhi Kshetras (abode of mystic powers). It is said that the Jyothirlingam at Sri Mookambika is the unification of Purush and Prakurthi and hence can be worshipped in any form of either Male or Female. Legend has it that Lord Parushrama worshipped Devi Parvathi here and many a legendry sage and God did penance out at Mookambica. Built along the banks of the river Sourpanika , the river is attributed to the eagle Saurpna  that performed penance along the banks of the river and attained salvation.

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The temple also has the shrines of Panchamukha Ganapati, Subramanya, Partheswara,Chandramouleeswara, Nanjundeswara, Sri Anjeya , Lord Vishnu , Tulsi Krishna and Veerbhadra. It is considered auspicious to pray to these prior to offering prayers to the Devi.

Not many tourists I must say and hardly anyone from North, most were from southern states or localites. For the fortunate ones, there is the Kaashava Teertham , a sacred concoction introduced by Sri Adi shankracharya himself which is distributed to devotees and is said to be of great medicinal value.There is a strict dress code for those who wish to see the inner shrine of the Devi . For me it means no jeans and belt and upper torso has to be bare while for women it is appropriate to be in Indian Dresses.


To truly see Mookambica temple , one needs to visit in the wee hours of the morning to witness the nirmaalayam which was the decoration of the idols with fresh flowers and the atmosphere was one of extremely sublime peace. As I made my way through the dark streets in the early morning drizzle to the temple, I could see lot of mendicants (sanyasis) who were standing at the side of the path leading to the temple and I remembered that this place is also one of the most acclaimed abode of mystic powers. Now. There is a tale to this too, Sri Shankaracharya mediated to Goddess Saraswathi on the Kodachadri Peak, appeased the Devi appeared and Sri Shankaracharya expressed his desire to build a temple in Kerala. The Devi agreed but on one condition stating that she would follow him but if he turns to look back she would stay there itself. Hence both started walking and Sri Shankaracharya kept listenining to the sound of Devi’s divine anklets. At one point through the dense jungle the sound just stopped, filled with doubt and worry the sage turned back and saw that the Devi was still following her. However seeing how crestfallen the sage was and his devotion, she told him that early morning she would reside at  Chottinakkara temple at Kerala and thereafter return to Kollur. Hence the temple opens at 5 in morning and on a clear day one can look right at Kodachadri peak where the sage had mediated.

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By 0900 hrs we were ready to roll , today was supposed to be a packed schedule with the highlight being visit to Udupi , thereafter the Bahubali statue at Karkala and finally arrive at the temple town of Sringeri.

Before Udupi we visited two more unique temples , the Sri Guru Narasimha temple at Saligrama while the other was Madhukala Ganapati Temple on the banks of the river Sita as she made a gentle turn in her journey. The idol of Lord Narasimha was made of black stone and the entire temple inside was rock cut stone. Udupi , the town that gave the entire India the Udupi restaurant synonymous with sumptuous  mouth watering cuisine on the go is also famous for Sri Krishna temple and the Chandramoulisheera temple.. The area around the Sri Krishna temple is banned for any kind of vehicular traffic and I found this most encouraging. The legend of Sri Krishna temple states that there was once a lower caste individual called Kanandasa who was a great devotee of Lord Krishna however he could never visit the temple , seeing his devotion there resulted an earthquake and the outer wall of the temple developed a crack in such a way that he could have a darshana of the idol . This became known as the Kanaka Kindi and to this day the idol can be and is seen from this window only and not from the main entrance.

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Lunch was for the very first time in a lifetime was done in the temple itself where all devotees are fed if they so desire . It was a truly different feeling if I may say so , no distinction practiced or for that matter seen. We also visited the highly spiritual Ananteswara temple and the Chandamouleeswara temple .The entire place emanated a feeling of  steeped in age old history where time stands still and one can stay for ages.

Karkala where I wanted to visit the statue of Lord Bhubali digmambar Jain , established in 1432 . A single rock cut statue 42 feet high standing tall looking into the distance at the Chaturmukha Basadi temple. It was pouring heavily while we were climbing the steps to the temple and we were totally drenched to the bone by the rains however the climb was worth by the beauty of the place in the background of the grey monsoon clouds and green foliage.

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The route to Sringeri is on SH 13 and passes through the Kurdemukh National Park. The Kudremukh National Park is home to Tiger , wild dog and the sloth bear and the SH 13 along with  its bye road goes right through it . At Sringeri headed straight to Shardamba temple to see the evening aarthi. The visit to Shardamaba temple on the banks of the Tunga river was most satisfying. The feeling of being in such religious places does seep into one’s soul I feel. Also close to the Sardamaba temple is the Vidyashankara temple and the Torana ganapti temple. Both the Saradamaba as well as Vidyashankara temple are grandly built with massive stone pillars and carvings and I think these would outlast the cities themselves where they have been built , they somehow are poised to defy time itself. The Sardamaba temple was built in the 8TH century founded by Sri Adi shankaracharya himself. We were lucky to witness the evening aarthi of the Shardamba as well of the other gods.

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The Vidyashankara temple built of massive stone constructions stands distinct in all its glory , constructed in the 13TH and features 12 zodiac pillars that are so arranged that the sunrise views reach the deity . There are numerous other shrines dedicated to gods /goddesses and there was evening aarthi happening at all of them, such was the sublime atmosphere created out there which is so difficult to experience elsewhere or put pen to paper and convert it to words.


Kudli is a small village which was situated right on the tip of a sliver of land which was the confluence of the river Tunga which culminates here after her tortuous journey and meets her sister Bhadra coming from the other direction and from here the river was known world over as the sacred  Tunga Bhadra.To reach Kudli one has to divert from the SH 57 and continue on a kucchha path for 06 kms till one reaches a point where there is no more land left to drive and then one sees the two rivers coming from two sides of the arrow shaped land and joining together to form one mighty Tunga Bhadra. An exotic view of the sangam makes this place exquisite with the 12TH century Rameswara Temple adding to the sense of peace and tranquility with no maddening touristic crowds. There is also the Sangameswara temple and the Narsimha temple installed by Lord Prahalada himself. A small temple with Nandi denotes the exact spot where both the rivers meet and is considered to be very sacred.

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Officially the sojourn of Uttara Karnataka was completed :- I had seen the mighty Jog to the serene Lingamakki dam , from the temple town of Murudeswarara  had witnessed the grandeur of the Rajagopura , had  climbled the Kodachadri peak in dense cloud cover  in the Mookambica Wild Life sanctuary and felt  the temple town of Kollur with the sacred Maa Mookambica temple highly acclaimed as abode for mystic powers. Had gone on obscure State Highways and seen the sacred Sringeri town , abode of the Maa Saradamba and of Sri Adi Shankaracharya. We had seen the confluence of the sacred Tunga Bhadra and travelled through the Kudremukh forest ranges , Marvanthe had beckoned us and we saw the river sharing space with the mighty Sea itself with NH17 separating both. Uttara Karnataka had been simply great and am thankful that the itinerary that had been worked out was most fulfilling.



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