What makes the spewing cascades of Hogenakkal so special? While politicians of the two neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu squabble over the Cauvery issue, the rugged beauty of the rough hewn rocks and the endless stretches of both turbulent and quiet waters of the Cauvery is being promoted by the Tourism Departments of the two states.
It shot into prominence when the craggy, forbidding rock face and thundering waterfalls formed the setting of many fighting sequences, rape scenes and romantic interludes of various commercial movies right from the days when the legendary MGR also bashed up many villains here. The stunning song sequence “choti si asha” in Roja, climax scene of Bobby in which Dimple Kapadia and Rishi Kapoor took a plunge from the cliff top and the opening scene of Ravana where the villain takes a nosedive were filmed here.
The falls and the meandering Cauvery River is the major attraction of Hogenakkal. With her origin in Karnataka, the Cauvery is said to have come down running in hiding to Tamil Nadu to be married at Hogenakkal. Hiding because she was thickly shrouded in the green splendour of the dense forests of yesteryears.
Unlike other falls, at Hogenakkal the falls are not located just in one spot but a labyrinth of high, narrow canyons through which the river snakes. At this scenic spot, one can savour the varied moods of the River Cauvery and a bizarre change comes over the usually sedate river.
It is tranquil at one moment flowing placidly over its boulder-strewn bed. The next moment, as if possessed by demonic force, she explodes into a turbulent downpour and hurtles down a 22-m precipice, seething with passionate ferocity and boundless energy in the chasm below.
The result is Hogenakkal Falls which literally translates as “smocking rocks” in local parlance, a name it derives from the pall of mist and spray of water that shrouds and envelops the chasm as the Cauvery waters hurtle over the rock-face. At first glance, the rocks appear to be spewing fumes into the air.
The route to the Bathing Falls are flanked by stalls selling soaps, shampoo sachets, soft drinks, swimming shorts, special fried fish, tea, snacks and handicrafts. Don’t miss the freshly-caught river fish fried on huge tawas. The maliskarans or traditional masseurs will accost you with offers of gingelly oil massages before your showers. A massage is a prelude to a dip in the holy river.
Bathing ghat for men
The falls are also known for its curative powers. The river passes through thick, medicinal forests and descends the less imposing frontages downstream, washing along several mineral salts that give a miraculous healing touch to the thousands of bathers who throng here. It is worth clambering up the Hanging Bridge to have a stunning view of the falls.
Hogenakkal comes alive on the 18th day of Adi when thousands of pilgrims gather to perform ablutions in the sacred stream. The “aadiperukku” day is marked by colour and gaiety. Bathing in the Yagakundam is a penitential cleansing particularly on the auspicious new moon days of the Tamil months of Tai and Adi during the Tula festival and on the solar and lunar eclipses.
Bathing ghat for women
One of the highlights of Hogenakkal is the coracle ride. The coracles resemble black mushrooms, propped against trees on the banks of the river. In local parlance, they are known as “parisals”. The boatman ferries tourists across the river and gives them a lifetime’s experience in those rough waters.
The coracle ride to the lower reaches of the river is a fascinating experience with the boatman maneuvering through the weathered rocks lining the sides. With just a single oar in hand, the ingenuity with which the boatman handles these coracles is an incredible sight to behold. The trip culminates when the boatman twirls and spins the coracle with the tourists screaming their lungs out.
All photographs by Susheela Nair
(Susheela Nair is a Bengaluru-based freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer and photographer contributing articles, content and images to several reputed national publications, travel guides, portals, brochures, and coffee table books.)