A trek to Kudajadri peak near Kollur in Karnataka where the Shankaracharya once meditated, is an enlightening experience. It was at the 'Sarvajna Peedom,' a granite monument, that the saint engaged in deep thought.
Kudajadri gets its name from Kudakappala, a medicinal plant that grows in the area. The spot is around 7,000 ft above sea level and clouds can be seen below. The place is almost always covered in mist or drizzle. A cool breeze whistles past without a break. There are a number of mountain streams flowing nearby, carrying medicinal properties of plants lining their paths.
A pilgrimage to Kollur is complete only after visiting Mookambika Temple, having a dip in the Sowparnika river and travelling to Kudajadri. In the olden days, a trek was the only way to reach the peak from the temple. However, jeeps conduct services up to Devi Temple near the peak nowadays. The fare is Rs 375 per person in an eight-seater jeep. For hiring a full jeep, Rs 2,800 is charged.
From the Devi Temple at Moolasthanam, pilgrims have to walk up the hill to Sarvajna Peedom. There are two options before them. One is to rush uphill to view the sights in 90 minutes and return by the same jeep. The other is to stay either at the Government Guest House in Moolasthanam or the houses of the priests there and take your own time visiting each spot in Kudajadri the next day. No prizes for guessing the best option.
The advantage of starting the trek early in the morning is that enchanting views of the sunrise from Kudajadri can be enjoyed. The walk to Savajna Peedom lasts one hour. The trek is a difficult effort, but it reminds people that the path to knowledge and enlightenment is not easy.
Halfway up on the right side is the Ganapathy cave. It is believed that a path exists through the cave to Chitramoola, another cave. Though the climb is hard, refreshing breeze provides energy to the travellers. Moreover, when acute fatigue grips the travellers, they shed their ego. Finally, when they reach Sarvajna Peedom, where Shankaracharya achieved enlightenment, the travellers realize that the way to peace starts from ultimate knowledge.
The trip to Sarvajna Peedom would be completed after paying obeisance to the spot where Sanakaracharya meditated to the goddess. However, several questions crop in a traveller's mind. How did a Brahmin from Kalady in Kerala reach this desolate spot in a Karnataka forest in the ancient past when no transportation facilities such as those available now existed? How did he live here? How could he build the granite structure all alone?
Maybe the saint, who memorized all four Vedas by the age of eight, wrote a commentary to the Bhagavad Gita at age 12 and authored around 300 Sanskrit books by age 32 before leaving the world knew everything.
Things to note
From Sarvajna Peedom, Kollur Temple can be seen in a valley on the west. There are three temples at Kudajadri. They are dedicated to Uma Devi, the Goddess in a peaceful form; Devi in a terrible form and Kalabhairavan. Travellers can pray at these temples before climbing the hill to Saravajna Peedom.
From Kudajadri, there are two trekking paths to Sarvajna Peedom. The one on the left is relatively easier to climb. A good option is to go uphill along this path and return via Ganapathy cave and Agasthyakoodam. A dip in the pond at Agasthyakoodam is considered auspicious.
After reaching Sarvajna Peedom, travellers can also trek downhill on the eastern side. A steep descent for about 500 m takes them to Chitramoola Cave, where several sages conducted penance in the ancient past. However, this path is very tricky.
How to reach
Kudajadri is 38 km from Kollur and the to-and-fro journey takes three hours. Another two hours are needed for the trek to Sarvajna Peedom and back.
Jeeps ply from Kollur to Kudajadri from 6 am to 3 pm. The last jeep from Kudajadri leaves at 6 pm and if it is missed, you may have no option but to spend the night there.
There is another way to reach Kudajadri. Take a bus on the Kollur-Sivamogga route and get down at Karakkatte or Gurutte, from where one can walk to Kudajadri. From Kollur, buses to Sivamogga, Sagara and Bengaluru ply along this route.