A favourite haunt of film crews, the peaceful and pristine environs of Barachukki and Gaganachukki waterfalls have formed the backdrop of many fight sequences and romantic interludes in various commercial movies.

A view of the Gaganachukki waterfallCredit: Badarish NP
Features Travel Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 14:03

It was a pleasant drive on the NH-209, cruising past the scenic Karnataka countryside, with its silvery fronds of sugarcane and emerald fields of paddy. Coconut grove and vast vistas of orange marigolds heralded a welcome. Enroute, we stopped in the nondescript hamlet of Halagur for breakfast, and tried out the steaming, rustic chiblu idli dished out at Babu Hotel on the Malavalli Main Road. What lends an extra depth of flavour to these unique idlis is that it is made in tiny little baskets woven from bamboo strands, and cooked over wood-stoked fire. It is then slathered with a huge dollop of homemade butter, and served with some palya and spicy chilli chutney.

As we approached the small island-town of Shivanasamudram (Sea of Shiva), 65-km east of Mysuru, we could hear the deafening roar of the Cauvery river, as it hurtled down into a deep, rocky gorge to form two picturesque falls — Barachukki and Gaganachukki. With the sylvan forested hills and lush green expanses that together form a startlingly calm backdrop for the Cauvery, the twin falls present an awesome sight.

It is no wonder that these second largest waterfalls in Karnataka have been listed in the World Waterfalls Database website, which provides comprehensive information on waterfalls across the world. Listed among the 100 most beautiful waterfalls in the world, these segmented falls finds a mention in the Mysore Gazetteer, and also has been eulogised by Francis Buchannan, a geographer who waxed eloquent about its grandeur. The falls area is also called Shimsha by locals, but the British labelled it as Bluff. A favourite haunt of film crews, the peaceful and pristine environs of Shimsha formed the backdrop of many fight sequences, and romantic interludes in various commercial movies.

Vistas of orange marigolds beside a coconut grove
Vistas of orange marigolds beside a coconut grove. Pic: Susheela Nair

Lush, green paddy fields
Lush green paddy fields in the Karnataka countryside. Pic: Susheela Nair

The ethereal charm of forested hills and lush green valleys form a serene setting to the Cauvery, the life-line of Karnataka. At the top of the falls, the river divides around the island of Shivanasamudram, the Barachukki channel on the east and the Gaganachukki on the west. During the monsoon, the falls are at their impressive best, as water cascades with a deafening roar over a wide area in a series of leaps. More than the vertical drop, the two waterfalls are famed for their horizontal sprawl and plunge from a height of 300 ft.

As the river was in full spate when we visited, it was an exhilarating experience to feel the water drops falling on our skin, as the falls came crashing down thunderously into a cloud of foaming spray. The roar of gushing water leaping down the rocky gorge, the twitter of birds and the rustling sound of the howling wind, together shattering the silence of the sylvan surroundings, have all inspired many a bard.

Cruising past Asia’s first hydroelectric project, Sri Visvesvaraya Hydroelectric Plant, we headed downstream. It was established at the behest of Diwan Seshadri Iyer in 1902, with the intention of feeding power to the former Kolar Gold Fields. The plant is still functional. It is said that long back there was a cable trolley for visitors to see the working of the hydro station. What is remarkable is that one is able to see and enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls, as the power station is located downstream, away from the falls. A laudable case for man’s coexistence with nature!

Just a few kilometres past the hydroelectric power station, we stopped by the fall-side Dargah to pay our respects to the Sufi saint, Hazrat Syed Mardhani Gayeb. The saint who came here from Mecca was buried here in 1604. Barachukki is beyond the Dargah, a few kilometres away. The water falls from a height of 100 feet and forms a deep pool. Compared to Gaganachukki, Barachukki wears a more serene look, probably because there are no boulders hindering its course downward.

Dargah Hazrath Mardane Gaib
Dargah Hazrat Mardhani Gayeb. Pic: Susheela Nair

A view of the twin falls
A view of the Barachukki waterfall, one of the twin falls in Shivanasamudram. Pic: Susheela Nair

When you have had enough of the falls, stop by the temples of Madhyaranga and Someshwara, and two churches as well. Madhyaranganathaswamy temple, an ancient Dravidian temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, is a pilgrimage centre. The Ranganathaswamy (Vishnu) idol is in a reclining pose on Adishesha or the seven-headed serpent. There are two more Ranganatha temples on the banks of river Cauvery, which are Adi Ranga at Srirangapatna and Anthya Ranga at Srirangam in Tamil Nadu.

Someshwara Temple in Shivanasamudram. Pic: Susheela Nair

An ancient church in the Shimsha area
An ancient church in the Shimsha area. Pic: Susheela Nair

The Ranganathaswamy Temple dates back to the Chola period, even though modifications were later made by rulers like the Hoysalas. Many interesting legends are associated with this temple. The main deity, Ranganathaswamy, is believed to be carved in fossil stone (saligrama shila). Goddess Lakshmi is depicted as Cauvery, the personification of the namesake river, and sits near the feet of reclining Vishnu. The serpent has a seven-headed hood, unlike the five-headed one at Srirangapatna or Srirangam. Even after we left the place, we could hear in the distance the deafening roar of the water of the mighty Cauvery, as it plunged into a gorge.

Madhya Ranga Ranganatha Temple
Madhya Ranga Ranganatha Temple. Pic: Susheela Nair

Getting there

Road: Mandya-60km, Mysore-65km, Bangalore-125km, Somnathpur-55 km, Talakad-55 km

Route 1: Take the Bangalore NICE Road – Bidadi – Ramnagaram – Channapatna – Maddur – Malavalli – Shivasamudram via NH 275

Route 2: Try the Bengaluru – Kanakapura – Malavalli – Panditahalli – Shivanasamudram via NH 209

Rail: Maddur-40km

When to go: Ideal for a day trip during the wet season and immediately after it.

Where to eat: Though there are small eateries and shops selling biscuits, snacks and cool drinks, it is better to take a picnic hamper. 

Tips: Avoid public holidays and weekends. Look for the safety sign boards on display at strategic places, warning visitors of the dangers of swimming in the water.

Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer, and photographer based in Bangalore. She has contributed content, articles and images on food, travel, lifestyle, photography, environment and ecotourism to several reputed national publications. Her writings constitute a wide spectrum, including guide books, brochures and coffee table books.

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