Road Trip to Tala Cauvery Origin of River Kaveri in Coorg
Most hill stations in India came into existence because of Sahib log during Raj wanting to escape the heat & dust during desi summers. Not so Coorg, it has been a flourishing Kingdom much before that, proudly inhabited by the brave and nature loving Kodava people. My introduction to Coorg was through Hindi translation of Chikavira Rajendra, by Maasthi Venkatesha Iyengar, the masterpiece that takes you through the turbulent times of the last king of Madikeri. Ever since then I have tried to go and soak in the experience of the Coorg the coffee capital of India, sometimes also called Switzerland of India.
What I was not ready was that Coorg is not just a small town it is a large geographical area in spread over hundreds of square kilometers. In this post, we will talk about a small but beautiful temple that totally took us back in time.
We were on our way to Talacauvery, the sacred pond from which Cauvery originates before starting its journey to the plains of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Bhagamandala Temple is 33 km from the Madikeri town and the journey itself is so rewarding that you forget about everything else. A few kilometers before the Talacauvery is the ancient temple of Bhagamandala, situated where Kaveri is joined by two tributaries, the Kannike, and the mythical Sujyoti river. Does this sound familiar a replication of the mystical Saraswati ? I wonder how legends / myths traveled in India along with the migration of people. Since there is no Ganga in South we created other holy rivers like Godavari, Narmada, Kaveri but it could be more than that – a more deep concern for nature and our rivers so in order to preserve them from the growing greed of humans the rivers were considered forms of a goddess. The temple is dedicated to Bhagandeshwara the local name of Lord Shiva. Though the temple board spells it at Bagandeshwara- which made me wonder if it is originating from Bagan – Plantations, desh- land and Eshwara – God, but I could be horribly wrong. The Bhagamandla area is mentioned in Skanda Puran as Bhaganda Kshetra, after a sage who lived in the area.
When you first see the temple it seems more like a Buddhist monastery, only reaching closer you realize it is made in Kerala style, which has a clear exchange of architectural ideas with the Chinese. There is a huge courtyard inside with a small pillar-like structure which has beautiful carving on it, on one side I could identify 2 marksmen pointing arrows at each other.
The crowds were very thin on that day and I decided to explore the surroundings a bit. Outside I found a lot of discarded idols of various gods under a huge banyan tree on the banks of the river. It seems people have been keeping these idols over here from there homes.
The temple must have been destroyed and rebuilt many times as it is surrounded by some very old idols like those of these Seshanaga, and Nandi that I clicked.
What really impressed me was the detail in the older stones structure on which the new temple must have been built. If you look at the picture of this outlet pipe from where water used for worship goes out you find intricate design has been carved. One can only imagine how beautiful and grand the temple would have been during its prime.
Travel tips in Coorg: Coorg is not a single town, but a vast geographical hilly area so distances between two spots could easily be 10 KM and above by road, so plan accordingly. Most roads in the area are still not dhabafied so your chances of getting food on the road are sketchy at best, so better pack some snacks with you before you leave your hotel. The temple can be combined with Talacauvery the origin of River Kaveri which is further a few kilometers.
Pack lunch as except for Karnataka tourism restaurant there are not many good food joints in the unspoiled area you will be traveling. There are a lot of small shops around the temple some of them sell spices and coffee grown in the area. Bargain hard to get a good deal from them.
How To Reach Bhagamandala Temple and Talakaveri –
From the main town of Madikeri, the Talakaveri also spelled as Tala Cauvery is about 45 KM, the Bhagamandala temple will be on the way at 35 KM mark. The roads pass through some of the most picturesque surroundings and you will see many plantations, waterfalls, and seasonal rivulets on the way. Follow this Google Map to plan your road trip to Bhagamandala Temple and Talakaveri.
To know more about Kodava people and Coorg I suggest you check this book by Kaveri Ponnapa Kambiranda : The Vanishing Kodava it chronicles the history, legends and folklores of the region like no other book with stunning images.
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