History, culture, nature: Shivamogga has more to offer than Jog Falls

From Shivappa Nayaka’s Palace, the forests of Agumbe, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Kuvempu’s Kavi Mane and the Malgudi Museum, Shivamogga offers a lot of tourist attractions.
Rameshwara Temple, Keladi | Pic by Susheela Nair
Rameshwara Temple, Keladi | Pic by Susheela Nair
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Think of Shivamogga and beautiful images come rushing to my mind. Situated in the forested region of western Karnataka, Shivamogga’s medley of myriad sights and experiences include luxuriant grassy slopes, lush meadows, palm and areca groves, rolling vistas of mountains, mist-covered valleys and a cluster of hamlets. Its temples, forts, history, scenic charm, myths and mythology are its main allure.

On the way, there are hairpin bends with breath-taking views and other delights hidden in every twist on the road. There’s just no end to the soothing, verdant greenery in these areas. The district’s prime attraction is Jog Falls. The Sharavati river makes a spectacular 810 ft drop in four distinct cascades – known locally as Raja, Rani, Rover and Rocket – to create Karnataka’s highest falls and Asia’s fifth highest falls.

Jog Falls | Pic by Raghavendra Prasad HS
Hailed as the gateway to Malenadu, Shivamogga district has many claims to fame. “Shivamogga has the distinction of being the only district that has given our state four Chief Ministers. But none of them completed their full term. Besides this, our district is the home of two Jnanpith awardees – Kuvempu and UR Ananthamurthy. From a vibrant market noted for its trade in areca nuts and groundnuts, paddy and pepper, Shivamogga has metamorphosed into an industrial hub catering to the needs of the automobile industry, supplying components even to automobile majors like Mercedes Benz,” says Jairam Kimmane, Chairman and Managing Director of Kimmane Luxury Resorts.

“Currently, Shivamogga has forayed into the golf and leisure sports business. Adjudged Asia’s Best Golf Resort in 2021, Kimmane Golf Resort has put Shivamogga on the international map. Fashioned along the lines of fun short courses in luxury golfing resorts around the world, ours is a nine-hole golf course. What makes it unique is that you can tee off in the faraway with the backdrop of the Western Ghats,” adds Jairam.

Situated on the banks of the Tunga river, Shivamogga has a riveting history. Established by the Keladi rulers, it reached its pinnacle during the reign of Shivappa Nayaka. If you are interested in history, you can explore Shivappa Nayaka’s Palace, which overlooks the river. With its Darbar Hall, a two-storeyed structure with massive wooden columns and balconies looking down, and sculptures displayed in the grounds, the palace is a must-see.

Shivappa Nayaka Palace | Pic by Susheela Nair
If you have time, head to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, named for the river which is its lifeline. An unspoilt natural haven, Bhadra is home to a profusion of wildlife, birds, butterflies and reptiles. Though upgraded as India’s 25th Tiger Reserve in 1998, tigers are rarely seen.

A 30-km detour from Shivamogga on the Shimoga-Theerthahalli road will take you to the Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary. The annual visit of three species of birds – median egret, the little cormorant and the darter – has put the obscure village of Mandagadde on the wildlife map. While returning from Jog Falls, it is worth stopping at the Tyavarekoppa Tiger and Lion Safari to see the majestic animals wandering around in their sprawling enclosures. At the Sakrebyle Elephant Camp located on the banks of River Tunga, you can indulge in interactive sessions, watch elephants being bathed in the river, watch them gorge on a leafy diet and generally enjoy themselves.

Tiger sighting in Tyavarekoppa Tiger and Lion Safari | Pic by Susheela Nair
For the adventurous, Shivamogga is a paradise. Agumbe, which is known for its evergreen forests, lion-tailed macaques, king cobras, glorious sunsets, and as the place with the highest rainfall in Karnataka, abounds in trekking routes. On the Kodachadri trek, you will pass gushing streams and sparkling waterfalls, enchanting forests and green glades. Canoeing, kayaking and windsurfing are common on the scenic backwaters of Honnemaradu, a destination for water sports and island camping.

Culturally, Shivamogga is very rich. The residents of the quaint hamlet of Mattur live, eat and breathe Sanskrit. Take a stroll in this Sanskrit-only village and you will stumble upon a group of elders reciting Vedic hymns and slokas on the banks of River Tunga. Even the local graffiti is written in the ancient Indian language. Don’t be surprised if you are greeted with Katham asti (How are you?) or Bhavatah nam kim (What is your name?).

Shivamogga also offers a lot for culture and literary buffs to explore in Kuppalli. There is Kavishila, a rock monument made of megalithic rocks atop a small hillock dedicated to poet Kuvempu. Arranged in a circular fashion, the monument reminds one of Stonehenge in England. Only a few are aware that coffee czar Siddhartha was instrumental in getting the memorial installed. Kavi Mane, Kuvempu’s ancestral home, is a museum where one can have a peek at his books, various awards and citations, household items, a handwritten copy of the Sri Ramayana Darshana, etc. There’s also an art gallery and a memorial building.

Kuvempu memorial | Pic by Susheela Nair
From natural beauty to man-made ones, Shivamogga has them all. One cannot afford to miss Ninasam, a nerve centre of theatre activities in Heggodu village in the Malnad region started by KV Subbanna, a recipient of the Magsaysay Award. Sagar, a cultural centre famed for the sandalwood carvings made by rural artisans, is worth a stop. For the spiritually inclined, there are shrines such as the well-known Rameshwara Temple at Keladi, Aghoreshwara Temple at Ikkeri and the Chowdeshwari Temple located in the picturesque environs of Sigandur.

Temple atop Kundadri | Pic by Susheela Nair
The latest addition to Shivamogga’s plentiful treats is the Malgudi Museum at the Arasalu railway station which was featured several times in the popular TV serial Malgudi Days. The museum has immortalised the legendary work of author RK Narayan. On display are village artefacts, information about artists and actors of the serial, collection of photos taken at the time of shooting and a sense of what Malgudi Days was about. But the piece de resistance is the tea shop inside a railway coach.

While not short of tourist attractions, Shivamogga lacks marketing and publicity. It is unfortunate that the State Tourism Department has not made concerted efforts to promote the undiscovered gems of the Gateway to Malenadu.

Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer and photographer contributing articles, content and images to several national publications besides organising seminars and photo exhibitions. Her writings span a wide spectrum which also includes travel portals and guide books, brochures and coffee table books.

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