Friday, 28 October 2011

Coorg - The Scotland of India

Coorg (officially Kodagu), known as the Scotland of India, is one of the most beautiful regions in the country, a lush and verdant undulating landscape, with an economy based primarily on the agriculture of coffee, pepper, cardamom and other plantations crops.

Coorg is situated on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats in Southern Karnataka, about 250 km from Bangalore. The nearest airport is Mangalore International Airport, which is about 100 km, 72 km away. The administrative capital of the region is Mercara (or Madikeri), a town set on a series of ridges that command breathtaking views of the beautiful land…a land that blows the aroma of coffee and cardamom on its winds, it attracts thousands of visitors each year to its salubrious climes, offering them numerous attractions such as waterfalls, viewpoints, temples, elephants, and the opportunity for contemplative and relaxing long walks through the delightful countryside. In fact, recent years have seen a rise in eco-tourism in the area, a sign of the need for city-dwellers to leave behind the urban grime, and rest easy in the pastoral scene - quaint cottages and flowers line the roads, orange trees and cardamom bushes are visible through the thick foliage.

SIGHTSEEING: There are numerous attractions to be found in this beautiful region, from scenic spots to religious and historical monuments. First and foremost on the list of attractions is the Madikeri Fort, which lies in the centre of town, and was built by King Lingarajendra Wodeyar II between 1812 and 1814. It has three stone gateways, a small museum, St. Mark’s Church, the town prison, a temple and a chapel. Next in line is the Omkareshwara Temple, another 19th century monument, built in 1820, and displaying an Indo-Sarcenic style of architecture. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and Siva. Also to be seen are the The Rajahs Tombs, which were built in 1820 and house the memorials of the last two rajas or kings of Coorg - Virarajendra, his wife and Lingarajendra.
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Another must visit is the beautiful Abbi Falls, as well as Iruppu Falls, the latter of which is considered to be a scared site, associated with the origin of the Lakshmanatirtha River. A temple dedicated to Lord Rama lies nearby. Also to be seen is Bhagamandala, an attractive temple that stands in a large stone courtyard at the Triveni Ghat, where the three rivers Saiyathi, Kaveri and Kanike meet. Bylakuppe (near Kushalanagara) is another interesting place to see, the settlement of over 15,000 Tibetan refugees, and the site of numerous monasteries, as well as the Mahayana Buddhist University at Sena. Also to be visited is Nisargadhama, an island reserve formed by the Kaveri River, which can be accessed over a hanging bridge, and is a delightful nature reserve with a good variety of avifauna and butterflies.
Also to be seen is Raja’s Seat in Madikeri, from where a spectacular sunset can be enjoyed. Talakaveri/Talacauvery, the origin of the River Kaveri, also lies nearby, about 48 km from Madikeri, in the Brahmagiri hills, about 4,500 ft above sea level, where the river emerges as a stream from a small perennial spring. Other places to see include the amazing and animal-friendly Dubare - Elephant Camp, the scenic Mallalli Falls, and the beautiful Honnamana Kere lake.

EATING: Famous across India, Coorgi food is delightfully rich, with innumerable varieties of dishes, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, served. A multi-cultural land, Coorg population is primarily made up of the Kodava people, the Kodava Mophalas, and the Bearys, and each have their own range of cuisines that are prepared. It should suffice to say, that Coorg 's cuisine is diverse and tasty, with ingredients ranging from peppers to cardamom, ginger to chillies, curry leaves to coconuts, pork to mushrooms, beef to bamboo shoots, banana to rice to chicken, and much more. Popular dishes are Pandi Curry, Kadumbuttu (rice dumplings), Koli Curry (chicken curry), Nool Puttu (rice noodles), Bamboo Shoot Curry (bamboo shoot curry), and Votti (rice roti), to name a few.

SHOPPING: Apart from buying spices and coffee, you can also buy homemade wine from Coorg, as well as the tribal liquor, Tody. There are also numerous tribal handicrafts to be bought, and a good place to find them is at the Friday Market at Madikeri.

ACTIVITIES: Long walks and treks, plantation tours and camping, these are just some of the things to do in this verdant land. For some of the trails, one needs to get permission from the forest authorities while for the shorter hikes, there are no formalities attached. Tadiyendamol, Pushpagiri and Kotebetta are some of the more popular treks. The trekking season begins in November and goes on till March. Outdoor sports are also an exciting way to explore the region and spend time, and mountain biking, white water rafting, rock climbing, kayaking, and parasailing are just some of the things you can do here. White water rafting is on the Kaveri River, from Dubare Elephant Camp to Nisargadhama, as well as on Barapole River. You can also go golfing at Beelur Golf Club, and boating on Honnamana Kere Lake.

NIGHTLIFE: There are numerous quality hotels in Coorg , primarily in Madikeri, that have good bars. Try the Lost Horizon Bar on Convent Road in Madikeri. Apart from this, chilling under the clear starlit skies at night, with a blazing bonfire, is a good idea.