With its emerald green forests and mist clad mountains, Coorg is often referred to as the Scotland of India. Stretched along the Western Ghats of Southern Karnataka, it occuppies 4100 kilometers of Mysore district. Coorg or Kodagu as it is also known derives it name from the indigenous 'Kodava' people; the British started calling it Coorg and the name just stuck.
As the winding road climb the ghats of Coorg, the glossy green coffee bushes and pepper vines present a soothing sight. Sprinkled generously across this land are the gems of our history and culture. Temples, rituals, monasteries and music and its misty vales offer the perfect salvation with its gorgeous rolling hills, woven with acres of coffee plantations, intermittently dotted with lush teakwood and sandalwood forests. The villages and hamlets here exude a forever ambience, timeless in their beauty. Its capital Madikeri, a dreamy little town, once throne to the Kodava kings, is now a tourist magnet with a lot of sight seeing and shopping opportunities on offer. From temple-hopping to just sitting around and watch the fog roll by, here are a list of experiences to be had in Coorg.
Experience a slice of Tibet in South India
Marvel at the 30ft high gilded statues of Buddha, Amitayus and Padmasambhava at the Namdroling Golden Temple in Bylakuppe, India's largest Tibetan settlement. The monks conducting the morning rituals by chanting the Buddhist hymns in an almost trance-like rhythm accompanied by the sounds of the bells is overwhelming and indeed divine. Spread across vast fields of corn and divided into 'camps', the area is dotted with stupas, prayer flags and monasteries of the Sakya, Sera, Kagyudpa and Nyingmapa orders. The visit to the settlement cannot be complete without shopping at the Tibetan market, as well as gorging on Tibetan food, served at the many home restaurants in the village.
Bathe, feed and ride an elephant
Karnataka Forest department runs various camps which are home to about 150 elephants. Dubare Elephant Camp in Coorg is of historical importance. The elephants for Mysore Dussehra were trained here. Visitors can spend hours watching elephants at the Dubare Elephant Camp. An early morning visit allows you the chance to give the wonderful creature a bath in the Cauvery and feed it gigantic balls of ragi and jaggery followed by a ride in the adjoining jungle.
Visit South India's most holiest river
Pay your tribute at Talacauvery, where the Cauvery emerges from a spring. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Caveriamma and Lord Agastheeswara. It is located atop the Brahmagiri hill at 1276 metres (4186 feet). A dip in the tank, especially on holy days, is considered auspicious by Hindus. One can climb the Brahmagiri Hill for a stupendous view. According to legend, when the Goddess Cauvery took the form of a river to revive the drought-stricken land, people gathered at the base of the hill to receive her. The force of her currents was so swift that the pleats of the women's saris turned backwards. To this day, Coorgi women wear the sari in this manner.
Go back in time at the Madikeri Fort and Museum
The Madikeri Fort is an imposing structure located right in the centre of the Madikeri town. Originally a mud fort built by Mudduraja in the late 17th century, Tipu Sultan rebuilt it in granite and ruled over it in the 18th century which was then recaptured by Dodda Virarajendra. The fort was further modified by Linga Rajendra, only to finally fall under British rule in 1834. Today, the erstwhile palace of the Kings of Coorg, situated within the strong walls of the Madikeri fort is the district commissioner's office. Alongside the palace is a Ganesha temple, a chapel, district prison and a small museum. The fort offers a beautiful view of Madikeri.
The Colonial era church located in the complex was built by the British when they took over the fort. More than a century later, when they finally left after independence, they stripped the church of its belongings – the altar, the cross, everything that could be removed. Today, the church is a hollow echo of its past, used as a museum to house relics found in the area.
Watch Sunset at Raja's seat
Surrounded by several high and low-rise mountains, this garden was once the favourite place of the Kings of Kodagu. According to legend, the kings of Kodagu spent their evenings along with their queens here, watching the endless valleys. But what's unforgettable about Raja's seat is the spectacular sunset that one can enjoy from here. A sophisticated musical fountain is also located here.
Revel in the Indo Sarcenic architecture at Gaddige Raja's Tombs
Gaddige or the tombs are one of the important monuments of Coorg and it contains the mortal remains of the royal Kodavas. The tomb in the center, which is the largest, has the grave of King Veerarajendra and Queen Mahadeviamma. The biggest tomb has the grave of King Lingarajendra and the smallest tomb has the grave of his guru Rudrappa. Closer to the tombs is the burial place of the two brave royal officials Biddanda Bopu and his son Biddanda Somaiah who sacrificed their life fighting with Tippu Sultan. The tombs are built in Muhammadan style with tombs at the center and turrets at the corners. Nandi figures are carved on top of the corners. The entrance of the tombs has carvings too. Lord Shiva is placed and worshipped inside the tomb since the king was Hindu. This is a very fascinating fact because most of the tombs belong to Muslim kings and dynasties.
Get blessed at Omkareshwara and Bhagamandala temples
The Omkareshwara temple was built by King Lingarajendra II to get some relief from the spirit of an innocent brahmin who the king had killed. The temple was built and consecrated in 1820. It is built in Islamic style with a dome and minarets towering over the tiled roofs of the city.
Situated at the confluence of Cauvery River and Kanika River is Bhagamandala, which is a sacred place for the Hindus. Another river called Sujyothi is believed to join the confluence underground. As per Hindu rituals, pilgrims dip in the river and perform rituals for their ancestors. From there, pilgrims ascend to Talacauvery, which is the birthplace of Cauvery River.
Enjoy the Scenic Nisargadhama
A beautiful ecological park,off the state highway with lush foliage of thick bamboo grooves, sandalwood and teak trees. Nisargadhama is where Cauvery Rivers splits forming a island and bamboo forest. A hanging bridge, boating, tree top shelter, deer park are worth enjoying here.
So if you are in the mood to amble down little-trodden paths winding around carpeted hills and sip your tipple by campfire at night, Coorg is the perfect place to be in!