By the time we reached Omkareshwara temple the sun had set . Few bunches of small white flowers on the side of mud path leading to temple entrance were twinkling, wrapped in dusky haze of evening, First thing one encounters on entering the premises is a water tank encircled by wide pavement. In the middle of the tank is a mandapam connected by a causeway. I could not get any detail relating to this structure. Why the structure was erected in the middle of tank etc?

On the left side were steps leading to main temple.The temple is unique in it’s structure.On first look it does not look like usual temples.The gate looks more like a gate of fort and the boundary wall extending on either side of gate has tiled canopies. Roof of sanctum has a dome and four small turrets on four corners.The temple is said to be an example of Indo- Islamic architecture. Similar kind of roof we had seen over the tombs of royal families at Raja’s tomb.
The temple was built by King Lingarajendra -2. It is said that the king killed an honest and pious Brahmin as he opposed certain acts of the king. The spirit of Brahmin turned into Brahmarakshasa and started torturing the king. The king then consulted religious men and on their advice brought Shivlinga from Kashi and built this temple. It is believed after this act of atonement the spirit stopped tormenting the king. There is a Tamr Patr nailed on the door just after the linga. The history of the temple is inscribed on this patra and we were told that king Lingaraja himself ordered to place that Tamr Patra there. This story is written on the plaque near the steps to the temple.
There was pitch darkness behind Linga. Flame of the lamp in front of Linga burnt steadily. As the priest narrated the legend to me I almost felt like being transported to another world. I don’t know whether it was impact of darkness slowly enveloping us, the utter silence around us or the interesting mix of architecture and an equally intriguing tale, may be all of these together or throbbing presence of Shiva but I stood there spellbound and like tiny droplets of light an assurance trickled down deep within —– there are forces to set the things right.

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Above three pictures are of temple at Bhagmandla. On way to Talacaveri from Medikeri, this temple falls on route.  One need not take any diversion to visit the temple. The distance between Bhagmandla and Talacauveri is about eight kilometer. Bhagmandla is a sacred place of great importance. It is located at the confluence of three rivers  Cauveri, Kanika and Sujyoti. Sujyoti like Saraswati at Ganga Triveni Sangam in Allahabad is invisible/ antarvahini. People of Kodagu visit here to take a dip at the sangam and offer oblation to their departed relatives, ancestors.
It is said that this temple has it’s reference in Skanda Purana. Bhagmandla is said to derive it’s name from Rishi Bhaganda, who did severe penance here to please Lord Shiva and Lord Subramanya. This temple houses shrines of lord Subramanya, Ganpati and Lord Shiva. Shiv Ling here is known as Bhagandeshwara.
We visited this temple on our way back from Talacauveri. The moment I got down from taxi and started walking towards temple entrance I wished I could have more time in hand to spend there. No, it was not the stately, four storyed tiled gopuram but something powerful, purifying in the still air that asked to sit silently and imbibe the positive aura of the place. Once inside the wide, clean open courtyard of the temple my urge intensified. Some priests in yellow garbs were performing puja, archna at shrines, others sat at some corners chanting and reading, devotees paid their homage from one to another shrine, fragrance of flowers mixed with dhoop wafted in the air, mellow blue sky of closing day stretching over the open courtyard appeared to lean closer to caress with blessings and benevolence while far off hills wrapped in mist and haze beckoned to land beyond. I wished to sit there under the openness till the night descended with all it’s dark velvety grandeur and the lamps of sky were lit while the glow of lamp from the dark sannidhi flickered to dispel all the darkness inside.

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We saw these idols behind Marriamma temple near Raja’s seat. We had earlier seen such idols in the courtyard of Medikeri fort. It aroused my curiosity and thanks to Google, I gathered that Dasahara festival in Medikeri is celebrated with many local rituals and rites and  these idols are taken out during those ten days of religious fervor and festivity. Many mythological anecdotes are carried out through these huge figures, mainly victory of suras over asuras. In one of the articles I read, it was said that earlier these images were carved out of wood but now with the advancement of technology the form,texture of the idols and the procession have greatly changed. Reference of huge wooden images made me remember two gigantic figures of asuras and one life size horse all carved out of wood kept in the big hall in front of our village home. As a kid I used to visit my native place during summer vacations and heard a lot about the grand Dasahara procession of our village when all those idols were draped in costly royal attires and shinning ornaments and a procession was taken out, many stories enacted. That is the beauty of our land…..a small village in northern India and small place in Karnataka, I am sure nobody from one place would have visited another in those far off times yet the cultural throbbing was so identical. What an enriching feel of bonding such chance encounters provide.

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This is exterior of  Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple near Raja’s seat. Mariamma in Kodagu is worshipped as Goddess of Shakti.

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This temple is some where in the vicinity of the Omkareshwara temple. While taking a round around the pond in front of the temple we saw it and clicked the picture. The temple appeared to be quite old and it’s architecture and aura beckoned us  but we could not visit it…….may be some other time….

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This huge Ganesha idol and many others were kept in a verandah in front of the small temple in the courtyard of Medikeri fort. The idols were not kept in any proper order rather they appeared to be dumped, leaning upon one another. I presumed that these idols were taken out, draped and decorated at the time of a particular festival etc.

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emple inside Medikeri fort. At present Medikeri fort does not look formidable but is nice open,  neat and clean space where tourists can roam about having a feel of era bygone. Some government offices are housed in fort. Boundary wall and gates are intact. There is a church too in the premises and a museum. At the time we visited fort, the museum was closed hence could not explore that.
This temple is of Lord Shiva and appeared to be recently renovated.

I would love to end my this blog by this quote from James E. Faust.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

As I sat there  amidst the stacks of prayer stones erected all over that particular hill at Talacauveri, I could feel the potent energy, the sanctity of the prayers said by various unknown people over the period of time. Those prayer mounds or the stacks of stones stood like folded hands raised in silent prayers towards the sky over head. Slowly moving rhythmic wind like a fairy with soft dainty steps halted besides the stacks and the stones whispered the prayers entrusted to them in her ever attentive ears. She in turn passed it on to fluffy clouds floating endlessly on the blue expanse of sky and clouds, the eternal carriers ensured that the prayers spread across the entire universe binding all of us in one thread of sacred brotherhood. What a blissful feeling it was, to be one with the moment and the entire world.

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I looked at those prayer stones and could imagine hands carefully choosing  and picking the stones that touched their soul, communicated to their hearts. Picking the stones for prayer stacks in itself  is an exercise of total mindfulness, of getting merged with the moment. Then placing stone upon stone with total concentration, balancing them one upon other with utmost care ensuring that the stack remained intact that in itself is akin to meditation. During the entire process one gets totally merged with the prayer and that complete surrender imparts the potent energy to the prayers .
One can also add pebbles to already existing stacks. when one carefully places a stone to an existing stack, our prayers and our thoughts merge with those of others who placed those stones earlier to us and thus the impact of prayers intensifies, each energizing other. What an enriching feeling this belief gives. Unknown we might be for one another yet we stand tied with that ethereal bond.

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Rocks and stones have been used as an expression of our spiritual urge from times immemorial. Be it rock cut temples, images of Gods and Goddesses carved out of rocks or a stone kept under sacred trees and worshiped with all rituals, all these are manifestations of our sacred thoughts but these stacks of prayer stones are perhaps the earliest expressions of our spirituality.
Those mounds or stacks of prayer stones dotting the entire hill stood there under the open sky bearing the rains, the wind and other vagaries of weather. They as if represented firm beliefs withstanding all the tests of time and life.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

Waterfalls— I have seen and been to many waterfalls from Uttaranchal, Dhunadhar of Jabalpur, Kodaikanal, certain places in Maharashtra, Hogenakkal, Shivasamudram, many others and the recent ones in Coorg. Some of these are known and famous, others are obscure and unknown. Some are seasonal, others perennial. Some are gigantic, wide spread others comparatively smaller and when viewed from far off appears to be like a stream trickling down vertically . But each of these has it’s own symphony, own music , own beauty and own distinct personality too.
A river in it’s entire life journey flows through level surfaced planes, meanders through rocky terrains, skirts around big boulders trying to block it’s course and then sometimes feels restricted by it’s own disciplined, adept and accommodating  way of running it’s life. That’s when breaking it’s own chains it leaps down the hills, mountains, gurgles with free abundant spirit, thrashes along freely with glee, with arms outstretched dances pivoting from rock to rock and once the adventurous urge is satisfied it again starts flowing in it’s own previous disciplined way. Waterfalls to me appear to be the representation of that urge to break free for some time and indulge in reckless, adventurous enjoyment of sheer happiness.
During our visit to Coorg in oct. 2014, I got an opportunity to indulge in the exultant company of two waterfalls. We visited these waterfalls on different days and were fortunate enough to experience the excursions in two entirely different kind of weather conditions.
The day we were with Abbe falls was a sparklingly blue day. Abbe falls are  at about 8 to 10 Km distance from Medikeri town. Paid parking is available outside the gate from where about three hundred meters  down hill walk commences. This gravel path is shady and easy to walk. The way to waterfall runs through a private coffee plantation farm.
We started our walk down. On both the sides were bushes, tall erect trees with creepers entwined to them. Soft, diffused morning light filtering through shady green vegetation haloed the leaves in silken gold hues. Though the path was full of to and fro tourist traffic yet it was not at all chaotic. A graceful calmness spread all around. As I always say, company of nature brings out the best in us.
While our way down, we could here the birds chirping somewhere deep in denseness but could not locate and see them. Spiders and their webs were there in a large numbers. I had never seen such colorful spiders earlier . They were in various sizes too.

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Long before we saw the fall we could hear it’s carefree, roaring laughter. Head along descent of Cauveri from a height of about 70 ft. mesmerized me.White foamy sheet of water spraying it’s pearly drops all around felt energizing.I stood there on the hanging bridge across the gorge facing the fall. Water hurtled down in gorge in ferocious urgency and surged forward with mighty force submerging the rocks and boulders on the way and then I turned 180 degree and faced the river on the other side of bridge. How quickly it’s mood has changed. In a comparatively composed mood the river flowed on in a playful way nudging the rocks in river bed, whispering to branches which bent to kiss it’s ripplets. That’s what is so magical about nature—- it surprises you at every other bend.

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view of Abbey falls as it came into view. People are far away from fall. From here a side view of falls can be enjoyed.

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This is front view of falls taken from hanging bridge. Railings and people can be seen on left side.
Next day we were at Iruppu falls. We planned to visit Iruppu falls in the morning and then be there at Nagarhole national park for 3 P.M. safari.Two safaris are conducted every day one at about 6 A.M. and another at 3P.M. As suggested by our home stay host we confirmed from the office at national park that afternoon safari would take place as per schedule. Some times due to heavy rains the trip inside jungle is cancelled. When we started towards falls it was cloudy and on the way it rained heavily. Somewhere on the way the driver lost the way and instead of taking the turn to falls he drove us straight to Nagarhole. Falls are about 20 Km from national park. We thought that after booking our seat for safari we would head towards fall but in the office we were informed that due to heavy, incessant rains for last two hours the afternoon safari was cancelled. We were disappointed a bit but then nothing should mar the spirit when we are out to enjoy. Keeping that in heart we proceeded towards Iruppu falls and the day turned out to be simply thrilling.

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on way to Iruppu falls
From wide open parking space the far off hills beyond the curtain of rain allured us.For some time rain poured down continuously like sleet, then intermittently it drizzled and this changing pattern of rain provided us with an opportunity to enjoy myriad beautiful frames of lush green hills. A moment slender white columns of clouds arose from the hills and walked tantalizingly towards sky, on other hoard of clouds rushed to hills and hugged them so tightly that we could not even see them.

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Purchasing our tickets we entered the gate .A gravel road run between airy grass fields with multi colored wild flowers. after some distance there was a building and this board was displayed there.

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On other side of the road stood a big Peepal tree with a Shivlinga under it’s shade.After some time the vegetation on either side started becoming denser and then steps leading to fall started. There must be not less than hundred steps to reach the fall. On one side of steps are hills laden with tall trees, creepers and bushes. A board there proclaimed that the area belonged to Brahmagiri wild sanctury. However entry without prior permission is not allowed here. What I gathered that participants to the organized treks are permitted to venture in the dense forest.On other side of steps run deep gorge but so dense is the vegetation that we could see only the wilderness. It was raining all the time yet the there was continuous flow of tourists. On the place from where we could have the first glimpse of fall, quite a spacious concrete platform was built and benches were laid down. We stayed there for some time taking in the untamed beauty of nature.
Iruppu falls cascades down the  Brahmagiri hills and jumps on a bowl between rocks to form a pool. Many groups of people were taking bath, standing in the pool, under the sprays and streams of fall. From there water flows down in number of streams separated by rocks in between. Those who were not taking bath sat on the rocks enjoying the natural beauty all around . There after all the streams collectively roaring and gushing take a steep jump  and later on meet the river Laxman Tirtha, a tributory  of Cauveri.
As per the legend when Lord Rama and Laxman were wandering in forests searching for Sita, who was kidnapped by Ravana, Rama felt thirsty. Inorder to quench thirst of elder brother Laxamana shot an arrow and brought the river Laxamn Tiratha into being.Hence the place is considered to be sacred. It is believed that water of Iruppu fall possesses magical power to absolve one of one’s sin. During Shivratri time many devotees, pilgrims throng here to take part in the ongoing fair and take bath in waters of Laxamana Tirath river and Iruppu falls.
Water drops from heaven above pattered on the rocks, leaves. mingled with  the gushing waters of fall, bouncing water gurgled happily and the forest came alive with harmonious symphony of nature elements.This was a truly spirit uplifting experience.

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Iruppu falls

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I have seen many strong, gigantic trees uprooted and destroyed by ferocious rush of waters but these humble grass blades danced and frolicked stating that many storms could be won by shedding vanity and embracing humility.

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From one side of the Peepal tree near the gate concrete steps slope down to peaceful waters flowing slowly between rocks. This quiet secluded place invited us to it’s fold and we spent some time there too. May be those who are not able to cover the distance upto the fall can take bath here and be in commune with nature, pay homage to Lord Shiva.

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”We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all.”
                                                                                                                      John Muir

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All pics by Sunder Iyer

Raja’s tomb— does not that make one curious? It definitely intrigued me. A Hindu king and buried ? And that’s not the only interesting fact, feature about this place of tourist attraction at Medikeri town of Coorg, Karnataka.
We visited Raja’s tomb in October 2014. It was a balmy afternoon with clear blue sky and cool breeze, As I got down from the taxi in front of high gate of iron bars,  these kids trying to ride the elephants sculpted on platforms on either side of the gate made me smile. Their innocent laughter and mirth gave a perk to my holiday mood.

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Inside the gate stood three structures in a straight line, distanced from one another by the green lawns in between. These structures are raised on square platforms, skirted by parapet. I was facing the back of the buildings. I started walking towards right side on the narrow, meandering gravel path running through the grassy patches. Bushes of various colored flowers in between the soothing green brightened the scene. After covering some distance I reached a small iron gate which was locked from inside. On the concrete square were two rectangular platforms . An idol of Nandi sat on each of these. On the side walls of platforms on black stone, I could see that something was engraved but from that distance it was not possible to read it. At that moment I could not know what these platforms denote. Why the statues of two Nandi were carved there? Rustling leaves  tried to whisper some tales of bygone era but alas that could not satisfy my curiosity rather ignited it a bit more.

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moving forward on the circuitous path I reached the front of the tomb buildings.
Here in front of the middle tomb is a plaque that imparts certain information about the buildings, the tombs and other structures.
The central structure houses the tombs of Kondva king Dodaveerrajendra and his wife. Door of this structure was open when we visited. Inside was a Shivling and Nandi. Isn’t it fascinating— a temple within the tomb building.On the roof of the building is a dome in center flanked by minarets on the four corners. Well, these are the usual features of most of the sepulchral structures of Mughal time but what contributes to the uniqueness of these tombs are the Nandis sitting besides every minaret. what a fascinating amalgamation of two different cultures. The walls of tomb buildings are lined by windows and the side panels of these windows have carvings of various images of mythological and folk relevance and importance, each telling it’s own tale. Every time I visit a historical monument with such images carved, I feel curious to know what it represent, what it depicts.

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A view of the back of Raja’s tomb.

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An overview of a part of Medikeri town from a small hilly portion inside the campus.

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Tomb of the royal priest.

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Inside view of Raja’s tomb. The hanging lamp, the Shivalinga and other idols can be seen.

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This one was interesting…..two bodies one face. Was the sculptor trying to engrave something symbolic…separate body, soul in unison or just because he had limited space on stone slab and that was the solution found for symmetry. Who can reach the nooks of a creative mind?

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This certainly is Ganesha and in the center …is it depiction of Om…. and the figure in right ? Is it Ma Laxmi?_MG_0323

Figures engraved on upper side of the window on the wall of tomb building. What or whom can these be representing? The figure on the left, the one with bow does that represent Rama or a Kodwa warrior and that on right—- is it some Rishi, praying but then why is he sitting on a boar. Is it representation of some folk tale or a mythological. So many thoughts race through minds. What you have to say about it?

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 These two figures stood on the gate of the central sepulchral structure. Dwarpals they could be representing . But the Trident  annd Damru in the hands of one figure suggests that it could be Shiva’s representation. Quite logical too it appears as Lingayats are great worshipper of Shiva but do they subscribed to this avatara of Shiva or adhered to Linga form only. More over foot above snake ? We are used to snake on Shiva’s neck. The symbols, signs and manifestations of the art and sculpture schools of that era had their own expressions, own language. We, as common tourist can interpret the same as per our own thoughts.
To the right of this tomb is the tomb of Lingarajendra built by his son Cheekaveerrajendra in A.D.1820. to the left is the tomb of royal priest Rudrappa built in  A.D. 1834. The two platforms with Nandis on them are tombs of two royal officials Biddanda bopu and his son Biddanda somaiah. Boddanda Bopu died fighting Tipu Sultan.

These kings of Paleri / Haleri dynasty ruled over Kodagu for about 200 years.[ 1580-1834]. From Haider Ali to Tipu Sultan these kings fought with the powers of Mysore to retain their individual and free identity. Kodwa people of Kodagu were brave, full of valor and were very loyal to their kings. After every defeat they rose with fresh strength .
Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains. The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbors and has always maintained their unique identity.

Kodwa kings worshiped Shiva yet they were buried unlike all other followers of Hindu Dharma , whose body is burnt after death, this fact led me to search for an answer. Well, I came to know that these kings were Lingayats i.e. followers of Veershaiva faith.  Followers of this faith  wear a  symbol of Linga encased in a pendant around their necks. The faith preaches that Shiva is within every body and urges to worship the God within. Followers of this faith have their own unique customs, rites and traditions. During pregnancy of a woman on a certain month a  Guru gives the would be mother the pendant encasing Linga, tied to a thread ,which is to be worn by the child on the day of the birth itself and throughout his/her life that pendant with ishtlinga is on the body. May be the presence of Shivling and nandi inside king’s tomb has something to do with this belief. Alive or dead God is with us, within us.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer