Harshini Vakkalanka samples a range of treats offered in and around quaintly charming Chikmagalur with the monsoon throwing a maze of mist for some advanced atmospherics
Different kinds of holidays converge in Chikmagalur. The town offers opportunities for a nature retreat, plantation getaway, spiritual solace or simply a long, relaxing drive. Getting to Chikmagalur, which is 250 km from Bangalore, involves a lovely drive with interesting tourist spots along the way. Even after one reaches, there are quite a few spots that are worth a visit around town.
If one were to remain in town, there is the option of walking in the coffee plantations that surround the area or doing a wee bit of trekking in the hills of Kemmanagundi, Mullayanagiri (peak), Kudremukh and Baba Budan Giri Hills, which derives its name from the Sufi saint, Baba Budan, who is said to have brought coffee to India from Yemen. His shrine is located in these hills.
Chikmagalur translates in Kannada to ‘younger daughter’s town’. Legend has it that the town was given as dowry to the younger daughter of Rukmangada, the chief of Sakrepatna (a village in erstwhile Kadur district).
The town is located in the Malnad region, which is known to receive heavy rainfall. It is not too crowded, so the tourists don’t clog the scenery. The hills are more charming during the monsoons, which was the time that we visited. The waterfalls are known to be at their best during this time, though it also makes driving up the hills trickier, with the fog and the rain.
Arriving there, we drove straight up to the Mullayanagiri peak, the highest peak in Karnakata located at about 6,300 feet above sea level. Approaching the peak we see that it is immersed in a puffy white cloud. It is only after we reach that we realise the clouds are not happy, cotton pillows; but rather chilly on the inside. Steps lead up to the peak from the parking spots, for the more adventurous.
On the way to the peak is a quaint, refreshingly silent Shiva temple at Sitalyanagiri and well worth a visit.
If one is visiting Mullayanagiri, one might as well take the diversion that leads up to the Baba’s shrine or Dattapeeta and go up to the Manikyadhara falls. But we were told that the cave is not open to public owing to construction activities, as is the Bhadra forest reserve, located 38 kms away from Chikmagalur.
Then there is option of a spiritual recharge. There are several temple towns and temples situated around the town, including Sringeri — one of the centres established by the saint Adi Sankaracharya; Horanadu — home to the Annapoorneshwari temple and Belur and Halebidu — famous for the Hoysala dynasty stone temples from the 12th Century.
One of the most interesting stopovers we made was at Sravanabelagola, en route to Chikmagalur. The town hosts the 57-foot-tall monolithic Gommateshvara statue built under the Western Ganga dynasty dating back to around 978-993 AD., which is located on the Vindhyagiri hill. Visitors have to climb the steps on the hill to reach the statue, no mean task this. There are carved pillars and statues along the way.
There are more interesting stopovers in Chandragiri Hill, including memorials to the many monks and saints who meditated there. The hills are located opposite the Vindhyagiri, and have structures that can reportedly be traced back to the 5th Century AD. We were, however, too tired to climb it by then. It is on our priority list for the next long drive through the Hassan district to the many interesting places around it.