Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Many Splendoured District - R.I. Dist. 3180

Karnataka, the eighth largest state of the Indian union is a state with legend, mythology and history intertwined together. Rotary International District 3180 encompassing the revenue districts of Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Hassan, Shimoga, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Kodagu and Chikamagalur is a kaleidoscope exhibiting the multifaceted diversity of this region.

Mysore - The City of Palaces

Mysore, also called the city of palaces, is one of the southern districts of Karnataka. Legend tells us that the place got its name from Mahishasura, the demon king who ruled here and was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari after an epic nine day battle; the 10th day of this battle is celebrated annually as Dasara - the day of victory of good over evil. Mysore is referred as Mahisha-masthi in the great Indian epic Mahabharatha. Historically known as ‘Hadinadu,’ in some 10th century archaeological records, the city was named ‘Mysooru Nagara’ in 1524 by Chamaraja Wodeyar. Ruled by a succession of dynasties like the Cholas, Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar emperors and the Wodeyars, Mysore today combines traditional grandeur with modernity and emerges as one of the most beautiful and best planned cities in India. The city is famous for its fragrant jasmine, smooth silk and traditional sandalwood carvings and inlay work.

Of the seven palaces strewn across the city, the main palace, Amba Vilas, is unquestionably the grandest of all, containing one of the most interesting objects associated with the Wodeyars. The 200 kg golden howdah displayed during Dasara is a piece of art. The Jaganmohan Palace is a treasure house of pictures, paintings and art objects illustrating Mysore’s history and personalities. It also has a wide collection of Raja Ravi Varma paintings. Established in 1892 is the popular Mysore Zoological gardens which boasts of a wide variety of animals and has the rare distinction of breeding wild animals in captivity. Other places of interest are the magnificent St. Philomena’s Church having the distinction of being the biggest in South India. The Hoysalas have left an indelible stamp on the soil of Mysore in the form of the Chennakeshava temple at Somanathapura and Dharmapura. Several regional and central institutions like Central Food Technological Research Institute, Central Sericulture Institute, Defence Food Research Laboratories, Regional College of Education, Central Institute of Indian Languages, the Folklore Museum, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums and the oldest University in the state (University of Mysore) are situated in Mysore.

Chamarajanagar - The City of Silk

Chamarajanagar is a newly formed district and is 65 kms from Mysore. ‘Arikothara’ was named ‘Chamarajanagara’ in 1818 AD by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in memory of his father Chamaraja Wodeyar, who was born there. The earliest reference to this place dates back to 1116 AD during the reign of Hoysala king ‘Vishnuvardhana’ when the Vijayaparshwanatha Basadi was built there. The most conspicuous structure is the large ‘Chamarajeshwara’ temple built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. A stone tablet on the wall of the temple states that the town with the temple was established in memory of Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1828 AD. The Chamarajeshwara temple has a large enclosure with golden pinnacles and several shrines all around. The presiding deity Lord Chamarajeshwara is in the form of a Shiva lingam, which is believed to have been originally brought from Sringeri with blessings of the Shankaracharya.

The town has several temples dedicated to the various gods of the Hindu pantheon, notably are the Narayanaswamy temple, the Bhujangeshwara temple and the Veerabhadra temple. It also has a historical mosque called Jamia Masjid ascribed to Tipu Sultan. The modern town of Chamarajanagar is a busy active commercial centre having a large number of sericulturists producing several varieties of fine silk cocoons. Large tracts of land are forested having trees yielding valuable sandalwood, rosewood, and teakwood. The towns of Haradanahalli, Holealur, Honasur, Kestur, Kollegal and Maleyur have temples dating back to several centuries built by several dynasties from Gangas to Rayas of Vijayanagar. After the Fourth Mysore War in 1799, the taluk of Kollegal fell into the hands of British East India Company and came under the Madras Presidency in Coimbatore district. It was transferred to Karnataka after the reorganization of states in 1956. According to a legend, two sages named ‘Kohala’ and ‘Galava’ are said to have performed penance at this place and hence it became ‘Kohalagalava Kshetra.’ A 1224 AD Tamil inscription mentions the name ‘Kollagaara’ as an agrahara and a later record dated 1569 AD mentions the place as ‘Kologaala.’ The town has a strong tradition of the Shri-Vaishnava form of worship perhaps because it has been continuously inhabited by people of Tamil origin. The town of Yelandur was granted as a Jagir to Dewan Purnaiah for his services rendered to the throne by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. The celebrated pilgrimage centres of Malai Mahadeshwara (Malai Mahadeshwara Betta) and Gopalaswamy (Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta) are situated in this district. The 15th century Saint Mahadeshwara was the head of the locally popular Haradanahalli mutt. The dense forested hills forming the fringes of the western ghats are inhabited by the Soliga and Kuruba tribes.

Hassan - Haunt of the Hoysalas

The beautiful stone edifices of Hoysala temples dotting all over the modern district of Hassan are eloquent testimony and ultimate tribute of the Hoysala dynasty and their master craftsman to art in its finest form. Situated in the south eastern part of Karnataka on the rights bank of the river Yagachi, Hassan is today the centre of India’s satellite programme as its Master Control Facility is situated in this town. It is hard to believe that the small village, what it is today, Halebid was once the flourishing medieval capital, Dwarasamudra of the Hoysalas, before it was razed to dust by the invaders. The celebrated towns of Belur, Halebid, Arasikere, Holenarasipura and Javagal, the villages of Haranahalli, Nugginahalli, Koravangala and Mosale to name a few, have stone temples which symbolise the confluence of Dravidian, Chalukyan and Chola styles, creating the Hoysala originality.

The celebrated Chennakeshava temple at Belur is well known for its stellar shape and 38 exotic bracket figures (Madanikas) displaying feminine form in playful, joyful, amorous moods. 17 kms from Belur is Halebid which has the strikingly beautiful Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara temples and many Jain shrines (basadis). The monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshwara (17.5 meters in height) towers over the summit of the Indragiri peak in Shravanabelagola, which is considered the spiritual home of the Jain sect. Hassan is a picturesque town in the heart of the Malnad region of Karnataka with rich vegetation and a pleasant climate.

Shimoga - Pride of Malnad

Situated roughly in the mid-south western part of the state, Shimoga an important industrial, commercial and educational centre, is on the bank of the river Tunga. Ruled by the Sathavahana dynasty in the 3rd Century AD, it was a part of the Chalukyan empire in the 6th century AD and a century later it came under the Jain chieftains, ruled by the Rashtrakutas from the 9th century until it passed on to the Hoysalas in the 11th century, and then became part of the Vijayanagar empire in the l4th century. Around the beginning of the 16th century, the Keladi Nayakas took over the area and remained in control till 1763 when Hyder Ali annexed the kingdom to Mysore’s Wodeyar dynasty. The western part of the district has tropical forests, the eastern part has several lakes and river valleys. 19 kilometers from Shimoga, on the banks of the river Bhadra is the ‘Steel Town’, Bhadravathi. It was here that the first state owned Iron and Steel Factory was started in 1923, and a Paper Factory in 1936. Historically important imprints have been left by the succession of rulers in the form of breathtakingly beautiful temples like the Lakshmi-narasimha temple, built by the Hoysalas at Bhadravathi. The Aghoreshwara temple at Soraba and architecturally splendorous Kedareshwara temple at Balligame to name a few. Home to an unique tribe, the Goravas, Shimoga also has its own dance form in the vigorous folk drum dance ‘Dollu-Kunitha.’ The traditional Sandalwood craftsmen, the Gudigars, have created a name of themselves in the Soraba-Sagar belt of Shimoga. One of the grandest natural spectacles in this part of India is at Jog, where river Sharavathi flowing over a rocky bed reaches a chasm and leaps down to a depth of 292 meters in four distinct falls - Raja, Rani, Roarer & Rocket - presenting a magnificent sight.

Dakshina Kannada - The Commercial Hub

The districts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada together form the Karavali or coastal region of Karnataka which is the longest in the sub-continent. Mangalore, the district headquarters of Dakshina Kannada, is a quaint mixture of the old and the new. It is situated near the backwaters of the converging Netravathi and Gurupur rivers. Mangalore boasts of a long history of maritime trade which now has a modern major port. The New Mangalore Port Trust is the life line supplying petroleum products in major towns in Karnataka and neighbouring states and also in exporting iron-ore mined at Kudremukh to several destinations across the globe. Although developed as a business and commercial centre, it still retains its old world charm. Old tile-roofed buildings amidst coconut groves and St. Aloysius College chapel with its frescoes done by Italian Jesuit Antonio Moscheni cry for attention amidst high-rise buildings and modern shopping complexes. Kadri hills with its laterite caverns, Manjunatha temple dating back to the 10th century, Tipu Sultan’s Battery, Jama Masjid and the ancient Mangala Devi temple are the important places of interest. Dharmasthala with the Shaivite presiding deity of lord Manjunatha, has Vaishnava priests and is administered by Dr. Veerendra Heggade, a Jain. Puttur, a taluk headquarters, is known for its natural water springs ‘Bendar Tirtha.’ Situated amidst captivating hill settings is the ‘Gupta Kshetra - Sri Kukke Subramanya Temple,’ where the Naga serpents sought protection of lord Subramanya and lived in the caves. Karthikeya is worshipped here in the form of a cobra. The place is a sea of humanity during Subramanya Shashti. Venur is famous for the Gommateshwara statue installed in 1605 AD. Moodbidri, described as ‘Jain Kashi’ is known for the 18 basadis, the most famous of them being the ‘Savira Kambada Basadi’ (basadi with thousand pillars), built in 1430 AD which houses a priceless collection of jewel studded bronze images of Jaina Tirthankaras in the Sri Chandrakantha Swami Tribhuvana-tilaka Jain Temple. Karkala, 17 kms from Moodbidri, is renowned for the forty-two feet tall monolithic statue of lord Gommateshwara and the Chaturmukha basadi.

Kodagu - Land of the Brave

Breathtakingly beautiful, complete with green-topped hills and lush valleys, Kodagu or Coorg is the land where the legendary river Cauvery takes source and flows in all her splendour. Amidst the vast and verdant plantations of coffee, cardamom, orange and pepper, live the fiercely independent warrior planter clans of the Kodavas, who were never conquered by either Tipu Sultan or the British, and so to this day, all Kodavas retain the privilege of carrying firearms without a licence. Madikeri, the district headquarters has a hill fort built by the Lingayat kings of Kodagu.

The Omkareshwara temple at Madikeri is a curious mix of Islamic and Gothic styles of architecture. Talacauvery is where the life giving river Cauvery takes source and nearby Bhagamandala is dotted with apiaries, as bee-keeping is an old tradition of Kodagu. This is what the Englishman Hilton Brown had to say, of this land of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa and General Thimmaya, in his article ‘The Astonishing Land of Coorg’ in 1922,
“I have called Coorg an astonishing land so it is astonishing in the respect already mentioned that, being considerably smaller than Aberdeenshire, it is ranked as a fully and separately constituted province in a country where mere districts run to half the size of Scotland. That fact, in itself, should lead one to expectations. But it is astonishing in many other ways and principally because, being situated in the heart of the South Indian peninsula, it continues to be what it is, a solitary island somewhere in the South seas, it would be remarkable and beautiful, but it would be at least credible, wedged between Tallicherry and Hunsur. It is scarcely that we could solace ourselves with the water meadows of Fraserpet or climb to the wind swept grass plateau of the Brahmagiri, where the Sambar walk in open solitude, and in the end descend into Malabar by the Saratabbhi Barapore river which must surely be as fine a piece of scenery on the grand scale as there is on earth.”

Chikamagalur - Cradle of Coffee

Legend has it that Chikamagalur was given as dowry to the younger daughter of Rukmangada, the legendary chief of Sakrepatna, while Hiremagalur (elder daughter’s town) which is another part of the city, was given as dowry to the elder daughter. Situated on the banks of the river Bhadra, the district is closely associated with the Hoysala dynasty. It was at Soseyur (today known as Angadi) in Mudigere taluk that Sala, the founder of the dynasty killed the tiger which was later immortalised in the Hoysala crest by master craftsmen.

Geographically situated in the south western part of Karnataka, carved against a mountainous canvas, this beautiful Malnad district is where the Europeans first sowed the coffee bean almost 200 years ago at Bababudangiri. Till today, Chikamagalur district remains a major producer of coffee in India. The district with dense tropical evergreen forests also has some of the most picturesque spots like the Kalhatti falls in Tarikere taluk, sunlit valley at Horanadu, river valley near Kalasa, Muthodi forest range with Bhadra wildlife sanctuary, the rolling hills of the Kudremukh. Sringeri the seat of the Adwaitha School of thought, the Bale-honnur mutt, Chennakeshava temple at Marle, Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi, Amriteshwara temple at Amrithapura and the Imam Dattatreya peeta are some of religious stops amidst the coffee plantations which blossom in an expanse of snow white in the flowering season.

Udupi - The Tropical Paradise

The recently bifurcated district of Udupi earlier formed a part of Tulunadu, the land of the industrious Tuluvas. The district headquarters, Udupi, is a noted Vaishnava centre where Madhvacharya, the propounder of the Dvaita Philosophy, established eight mutts called Ashta-matha – Pejaawara, Kaaniyooru, Sodhey, Krishnapura, Shirooru, Puttige, Aadamaaru and Palimaaru. The geologically significant basalt columns at St. Mary’s Islands nearby are a popular picnic spot. Five kilometers from Udupi is Manipal, a centre of modern learning founded by the legendary Pai family. Manipal boasts of several colleges and institutions of higher learning managed by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Udupi is considered the cradle of banking and hotels. Yakshagana is a unique dance-drama which is an all night event, performed with gorgeous costumes, elaborate makeup, quick movements, beating of drums accompanied by a narration in lyrical form - this art form is indigenous to the coastal Karnataka region. The institute of Yakshagana at MGM College is a pioneer in the revival of this art form.

Malpe beach, eight kilometers away from Udupi, is an ideal place for a swim in the frothing and foaming sea. Kollur is another pilgrim town at the foot of the western ghats known for its Mookambika temple. The idol here was installed by Adi Shankaracharya. North of Udupi along the coastal road towards Baindoor is the scenic Maravanthe beach where the highway is sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Sowparnika river.

The sea side towns of Kundapura and Baindoor have huge ancestral houses built entirely of wood. Udayavara near Brahmavara is the ancient capital of the ‘Alupas’ who ruled Tulunadu & Kasaragod between 700 to 900 AD. The district of Udupi is viewed as a stronghold of conservative Hinduism. It is also the centre for the distinctly non-Brahminical tradition of Bhoota cult. The Nandeeshwara temple at Mekkekattu houses the largest collection of Bhoota icons made of jackfruit wood. Another sight not to be missed is the ‘Kambala’ or the buffalo race, run in the inundated paddy fields by a pair of buffaloes egged on by a strong youth, during monsoon.


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