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Once upon a plantation :: kavi shaila :: kuppalli

Posted by egovindia on April 22, 2007

Once upon a plantation

An arecanut plantation on the banks of the Tungabhadra that’s perfect for some quiet, says BHUMIKA K.


VISUAL DELIGHTS Poet Kuvempu’s home in Kuppalli now houses a museum.

Constant quest. Thirsty travellers. Adventure seekers. Exclusive location. Peak season. Private pool. Wild destination. Tariff plans.

A random run through this sequence of phrases and you are tired of even thinking of a vacation. Suddenly it transforms from being a much-awaited break to an impending looming large must-do “thing”. A craving for the new is offset by a yearning for the familiar. The incongruity of travelling, and of the traveller, is what the home stay banks on.

Seeking a combination of everything one can possibly pack in two small days cramped into a weekend, Vihangama Holiday Retreat is unearthed. A few recommendations, a website check, hurried calls and it seems a good match.

An arecanut plantation on the banks of the river Tungabhadra, nestled in the hills of Malnad in Shimoga district seems perfect for some quiet and a flavour of the land. It has the works — boating, river-side stay, the promise of lush forests on the rolling hills, and Kannada litterateur and thinker Kuvempu’s favourite hillock of reverie nearby.

Going through twisting bends on the hillside, rushing past the sleepy town of Shimoga, the road heaves and sighs further up the hills towards Tirthahalli.

Idyllic setting

A sharp hairpin curve indicates you are at Vihangama Nursery’s doorstep. A quiet walk a few hundred metres from the main bus route, and you see the beginnings of estate life — a cow-catcher at the gate, the sound of barking dogs, construction work going on, coffee plants peeping from amidst arecanut trees, and vines of pepper and vanilla climbing up the arecanut trees, the promising sight of a cosy cottage nearby.

The striated rock overhanging on the Tunga river can make an interesting boating destination

It’s not surprising that K. R. Dayananda and his wife Sheela decided to make this place home. Their own farmhouse — very unlike sprawling ones you would normally associate with the word — nestled between a line of cottages for holiday makers, is surprisingly small. Dayananda leaves his supervision post where labourers are drying arecanut (it’s the harvest season).

A warm welcome and enquiries about the journey set the tone for the holiday. Instantly it almost seems you are visiting relatives, not checking in at a resort, and the Dayanandas become Uncle and Aunty. Over hot tea Uncle talks of the time when he first came and saw the land over 25 years ago. He followed a cattle track up the hill and found a brilliant view running down. He instantly decided he would buy it and name it Vihangama meaning a bird’s eye-view.

Breakfast is scrumptious with dollops of fresh butter and the traditional akki rotti at the hosts’ dining table. When there are a small number of guests, Aunty herself cooks in the home kitchen and dishes out some amazing fare like neer dosai and gojjus, healthy curries and soppu saaru, apart from yummy desserts with every meal. The reassurance of a good home-made meal that you can come back to, after a day of sightseeing or playing by the river with appetites soaring high, is really comforting. (Large groups of guests are catered to from the town.)

Lunch and dinner is peppered with interesting conversations with Uncle on anything ranging from vanilla farming, the farmer’s movement in the region, Naxalite movements growing in the area, Kuvempu’s works, and which way the vote bank is likely to swing.

An almost two-hour boat ride (hand-rowed by estate workers) from the estate banks will take you up the Tunga in the evening to visit a rock overhanging chipped and chiselled into striated patterns by the strong Tunga waters in the monsoon. When the water has receded it offers a weathered rock that pigeons nest in. The boat goes below this overhanging and weaves in and out creating strange echoes within.

Even if you decide to do nothing, you will be tempted to venture out when Uncle gives you options. A trip to Kuppalli, around 20 km from Vihangama, Kuvempu’s hometown, is really inspiring. His home has been converted into a museum. With its rich wooden pillars, stair, wooden floors and lofts, the bananthi kone (a room where women were tucked away in warmth after delivery), the traditional bathroom where yenne snana (oil baths) were a grand ritual, it resonates of his stories. It not only offers insights into Kuvempu’s life and literary works, but also tries to recreate the homes and lifestyle of the Malnad people.

Starting from the kambli (a thick woollen rug) used in their long rainy monsoons to the giant wooden granaries accessed by ladders, huge wooden and metal cooking pots and pans used by joint families, you get a peek at everything. Kavishaila is the hillock near his home where Kuvempu sat for hours and dreamed of the brilliant view for literary inspiration. He was also cremated there and today Stonehenge-like sculptures stand as a memorial.

Sibbalagudde can be another stop on the way. Buy a kilo or two of puffed rice in the village and head to the fish sanctuary, where huge black glistening Mahseer will throng and splash uncontrollably at your feet to gobble up the kadlepuri. Much like in Sringeri. Being deemed as Devara Meenu or God’s fish and gathering at the feet of a flight of stairs coming down from a temple, anglers stay carefully away from them.

Morning brings with it the smell of arecanut boiled fresh and being spread out to dry in Vihangama’s yard. A brisk walk to the nursery and a dip in the Tunga can start your day well. Take a book to sit on the banks by the river on the estate to just soak in some river flow, birdsong and fresh air. If you are the kind who can walk and climb a bit, set a day aside for a day-long excursion. Uncle knows a few spots unmarked on tourist maps that offer you pristine slices of Nature, just served up for you (is what one would like to believe).

Jogi Gundi comes with its stories of a swami who sat meditating looking upon a pond below. Water from the hill rushes through this Blue Lagoon-like place. Watch out for the leeches en route, though! Next you can trek through a bit of jungle soaring with the racket made by crickets, to hit Barkhana that offers a stunning view of the Sita Nadi falls in the hazy distance. Soak in the sight of unbelievably thick forest cover rolling up and down the hills till as far as the eye can see.

Agumbe (around 30 km from Tirthahalli) is a popular tourist spot known for its brilliant sunsets and steep ghats. Try to get here by sunset. The peak of Kundadri (25 km), one of the highest peaks in Karnataka, offers a 360- degree view of the forests, ponds and paddy fields below. The road to the small Jain temple atop this hill is still being made and a four-wheel drive is a safe bet. Or simply climb up. There are many more such peaks and waterfalls you can trek to if you carve out some time for yourself!

How to get there: Find National Highway 13. Drive till you get to the steep bend about 55 km after Shimoga (heading towards Tirthahalli). If you drive a mere three hundred meters from the main road, you will arrive at Vihangama. It’s about 320 kilometres from either Bangalore or Goa, and 120 kilometres from Mangalore airport. Get around the estate in your own vehicle or hire a taxi from Tirthahalli town.

For more information about the home-stay, log on to www.vihangamaholidayretreat.com or call 08181-228211/227025.




Kuppali is around 18 km from the taluk headquarters, Thirthahalli and 80 km. from the district headquarters, Shimoga. From Shimoga, one has to take the National Highway NH-13 (Shimoga – Thirthahalli road) to reach Kuppali. From Bangalore, one has to take the National Highway NH-206 to reach Shimoga and then take the above mentioned route. There is an overnight bus run by KSRTC from Bangalore to Kuppali. The total distance from Bangalore to Kuppali is around 350 km. From Mangalore, one can take NH-13 to reach Kuppali. The distance from Mangalore to Kuppali is 161 km.

Kavishaila is a rock monument made of megalithic rocks and dedicated to Kuvempu. It is on the top of a small hill in Kuppali. Arranged in a circular fashion, the rocks have been placed to resemble the Stonehenge in England. At the centre of this rock monument is the place where Kuvempu was laid to rest after his death and a memorial has been constructed at that location. Near this monument, is a small rock where Kuvempu used to sit and discuss about literature and other topics with his other litterateur friends. A rock containing the etched signatures of Kuvempu, B. M. Srikantaiah and T S Venkannaiah is present near the monument. Poornachandra Tejaswi later engraved his signature on the same rock. The scenery around this place is breathtaking. Granite slabs containing engraved poems and quotes of Kuvempu have been placed near the monument



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