Western Ghats of India

Motoring in the South Sahyadris


Western Ghat mountain range (Sahyadri mountains) is one of the major mountain range system of the Indian Sub continent. Located at an average distance of sixty to seventy (definitely less than a hundred kilometers) from the Western Sea Board of India, the Sahyadri mountain range extends in the North-South direction for sixteen hundred Kilometers from Nashik (Maharashtra state of India) in the North to Kanyakumari. (Southern tip of Indian sub continent). The mountain range is endowed with superb tropical rain forests on both sides, extending almost to the sea shore, in few places.

There are two ways from the North, to approach the jungles of the south Sahyadri mountains. The first route, which appears on the map as the easiest and simple, is to take the Mumbai-Goa highway near Panvel and travel up to Goa,where the road continues as National Highway 17 to reach Ankola town. At Ankola, turning left on National Highway 63, takes you to Yellapur town, which is located in the heart of the jungles of southern Sahyadri mountains. This route is actually a pain in the neck, as far as motoring is considered. This highway, in most places, is just a two lane road with very heavy traffic consisting of all sorts of vehicles and is a nightmare to drive. The other longer route is to take Mumbai-Pune expressway and then continue along the beautiful Pune-Bangalore highway right up to Hubli town and then turn on the National Highway 63 to reach Yellapur. 


I am on my way to Yellapur town, which is about seventy kilometers away from Hubli city. As I leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind me, the road passes first through a rich agricultural tract, with standing Jowar and other crops almost ready for harvesting. After another ten or fifteen kilometers, the landscape starts changing rapidly. Fields with standing crops are still there, but now I can see only paddy fields everywhere around me, lush green in few places and ripened to golden yellow in other places. As I travel further towards Yellapur town, paddy fields appear more and more intermittently, mingling seamlessly with beautiful bluish ponds, grass and isolated patches of tall trees. Slowly the huge tall trees start dominating and substitute for everything else. Very soon I am in the midst of a thick tropical rain forest. There is nothing really to see on either side of the road now, except for countless number of huge trees with large leaves, small leaves, whitish leaves and blackish leaves. There is a very heavy undergrowth of shrubs and grasses in the open spaces below the tress. Once in a while, a dried trunk of a tree lying on the ground and covered completely with creeper plants, projects out like a sore thumb through the undergrowth.

Lush Green Paddy fields

Soon I reach Yellapur town. I decide to have a cup of the tea in a roadside cafe. The town itself is just an ordinary Indian town with relaxed atmosphere. The cafe owner is not very communicative in spite of my best efforts. I drink my tea rather quietly and proceed further. From Yellapur, we branch off to a smaller and badly pot holed road, which leads to another town called Sirsi.

Forests of the south Sahyadries

I have made reservation in a jungle resort located somewhere along this road. A narrow track covered with red soil leads me to the resort built in an opening right in the middle of the jungle. Surprisingly, there are a large number of coconut and aracknut trees spread all around this place. Neat little cottages stand in two rows to house the visitors. A larger building on a side perhaps is the dining hall. The resort claims to provide all modern facilities like electricity, running hot water and cable television. However I soon find out that these modern day luxuries are dependent on couple of cables and electrical lines brought all the way from Sirsi town and at slightest vagaries of the mother nature are likely to go out of function. Yet this uncertainty does not bother me much as the place has a built in calm and relaxed atmosphere, which somehow makes me realize the unimportance of any of these modern day requirements.
After a much delayed lunch, I doze off a little in the supreme serenity of the surroundings and wake up completely freshened up from a rather tiring road journey. The time is is around 4 PM . The dark shadows of the surrounding tall trees have already started to grab the open spaces even though the sunset is still couple of hours away. I am served a cup of hot tea and told to be ready to visit a nearby Tibetan Manastery. There are two large Tibetan monasteries in Karnataka. One is located near Kushal Nagar in Coorg district and the other one at Mundgod village, which is not very far off from my resort.
Since, I have visited the Kushal Nagar monastery about a year back and have also visited number of Monasteries in Ladakh very recently, I am not greatly interested in this visit. Finally I decide to go along.

Mondgod Monastery

After Chinese take over of Tibet in 1955, a large number of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama escaped to India from Chinese communist rule. Many of the immigrants were given land and other facilities by Government of India and were settled in the two colonies in Karnataka state. Tibetans settled in Mundgod village have built this monastery and is known as “ Gaden Jangtse Thoesam Norling Monastery”.

Maitreya Buddha

Idol of Tara

Banner depicting guardian of a cardinal direction

The Monastery prayer hall building is huge with curved stair case on a side. A climb up leads me to a large main prayer hall or Du-Khang of the monastery. At one end of the hall, there is a raised platform. Several idol figures are arranged behind a huge glass show case. I can easily identify the Maitreya Buddha and Tara idols. Huge painted banners, displaying brightly coloured paintings of the four guardian kings of the cardinal directions and other paintings of religious significance adorn the side walls and the spaces between the idols. As I leave the hall, a gong starts striking repeatedly with a booming sound. Suddenly the sitting places in front of the raised platform start getting filled with young monks wearing deep red or saffron robes. They sit down in rows parallel to the length of the hall. I leave the monastery as monks begin their evening prayers. When I reach my resort, it is already dark. The lights in the rows of huts appears to be the only sign of life in the vast darkness of the jungle. Dinner is served later in the main dining hall.

As I lie down on my bed, I switch off the lights. Complete darkness spreads around me. It is difficult even to see my own raised hand. Surprisingly, there are no chirping crickets or other insects to create a background sound track. I never thought that jungles could be that silent. The total darkness and silence is like an void, which absorbs me in an instant. I fall asleep in just few seconds.


Dawn arrives late in the middle of a jungle. The golden rays of the morning sun get effectively blocked by the tall trees all around. I open my eyes after a very peaceful night’s sleep. Its is still dark outside. Yet I am awakened by the chirping, cooing,squawking, hooting and warbling, going all around me. It is fascinating to hear the bird songs so clearly, and so early in the morning. I look out of the window. I see nothing. Well above me, I can trace the first faint bluish tinge in the eastern sky. I remember that a very interesting visit has been planned today to a nearby site.
After a hearty breakfast, consisting of some fabulous local dishes along with bread and omelet, we leave the resort for our day’s excursion. The morning is rather pleasant , though I would have preferred a slightly lower temperature. We take the Yellapur-Sirsi road, a narrow and much pot holed path. The Sirsi town is just a medium sized town with fairly modern facilities like hospitals and even a sports stadium. There is a state highway No. 69 which joins Kumta town on the sea shore with Sirsi. After traveling on this highway for about 40 kilometers, we branch of to a much smaller road (single lane at the best.) This road passes through some of the dense jungle patches on the Sahyadris. After rattling and bumping for about 10 kilometers, the vehicle comes to a stop. There is no motorable road any further. I get down and look ahead. There is a path straight ahead, sharply sloping downwards. It must have rained here last night because soil is completely wet and slippery. The dense forest around me has still retained that moisture in the air and I feel very damp and sticky. I start walking down the slippery path with abundant caution, firmly keeping my eyes on the ground. After some distance, the path curves to left. On the corner, I locate a dry spot. I decide to pause there for few seconds and look up.

Mohini Shikhar or Pinnacle

In front of me, stands a most amazing spectacle, I have ever seen. Behind the thick undergrowth of the jungle, a jet black rock with a cragged and pinnacled shape rises above the trees. The rock is huge and has muliple sharp crests, crevices and cracks going down all the way, well below my sight. The crests and cracks, having faced the weather for ages, are rough and absolutely razor sharp. I have seen such kind of rock shapes only in sci- fi- book pictures as that from some other planet and had never even imagined that such kind of rock pinnacles can really exist anywhere on earth. This rock, except for its black shape, looks as if it has just come from some other planet. This craggy rock is called by the local people as Mohini Shikhar or Mohini Peak. 

Another view of Mohini Pinnacle

I continue walking. Few meters away on left, the land becomes flat and on this flat land stands a magnified version of the smaller Mohini peak. This is the rock, known locally as Bhairav shikhara and rises 120 meters feet above the ground. The smaller Mohini shikhar rises to a height of 90 meters. This large pinnacled rock rises from the hillside over the tree tops, like the battlements of a castle. The nearest village from this place is called Yana and hence these pinnacles are commonly called as Yana rocks. 

The magnificent Yana rocks

The Sahyadri mountain range mainly consists of black basalt rocks formed from solidification of Lava from an ancient volcanic eruption about 65 million years before. Surprisingly both pinnacles at Yana are pure crystalline limestone. Such rocks are usually formed by decay of marine animals or by crystal formation of calcium salts dissolved in water. Such ragged pinnacles formed by dripping water are found inside caves at many places around the world. The presence of such huge pinnacles on the ground and that too having jet black colour is a real natural wonder.

Another view of Yana rocks

The flat piece of land where I stand, ends at about mid way in height of Bhairav pinnacle. There is a natural cave formed here inside the rock. A shiva temple with a Linga has been built inside the cave. I have a casual glance at it and come out to photograph the rock. From the left side of the rock a path with built in steps, leads to a great horizontal gap or a cave like fissure. Since this rock is considered as some kind of religious place , one needs to remove his footwear to go up the steps. The walking surface looks rather rough and someone cautions me about the Leeches that are in abundance around the rock. Even then, having come here all the way, I just cannot avoid the temptation of an adventurous journey through this cave like structure. I remove my footwear and climb the first few steps.

Wall of the vertical fissure showing deep ravines

After climbing for some distance, I stand facing the cave, which is actually a deep crevice and I happen to be at the bottom of it. This fissure or cleft in the rock, actually almost splits the Bhairava Pinnacle into two halves. I walk into the cave. At few places the top is open to sky. At few places it gets closed with oval shaped openings bringing in bright sunlight. Even then these holes in the roof are at such an height that inside the crevice the air is still stuffy and smelly. The sides of the cave have deep vertical ravines or hollows with razor sharp edges. There are plenty of horizontal ledges which form a natural pathway for walking through. I can see many bee combs hanging from ledges at much higher level. A flock of bronze coloured flying creatures ( I really can not tell you whether they are bats or pigeons.) make a noisy exit. I keep walking. After few turns, the cleft becomes so narrow that I can barely walk through. There are few tall steps formed naturally by rocks. The going gets tougher and tougher. After doing about 80 to 90% of the round, I finally give up and return back. While returning I do see some beautiful white flowers on the side rocks.

View of Cave top

Another view of cave top

Narrow path through Cave

This place, as it happens with almost any natural wonder in India, has a mythological story. Naming the smaller pinnacle Mohini, which means a temptress, really beats my imagination. Who would be tempted by this jagged and ragged pinnacle? except may be few geologists or rock climbers. I keep my thoughts to myself and return to our vehicle and then to our resort for my lunch.
After lunch, we start again, in another direction, to visit another wonder. This time not a natural wonder but something created by human hands. I am back again on the Sirsi-Yellapur road. About 17 kilometers from Sirsi, a small road branches off towards Hulgol village. We take a turn and continue for a small distance. Ahead of us is a neat parking place for vehicles surrounded by trees from all sides. There is also a small shop on a side, selling cold drinks and snacks. Obviously this is some kind of tourist place. There is a small opening in the trees, where steps have been built to take you down on a steep slope. I start walking down the steps. The steep slope turns out to be a bank of a river. After walking number of steps I manage to reach the river bed. The river does not have much water and hundreds of rocks and stones from the river bed lying bare. Yet, when I look closely at the rocks and stones, first with my bare eyes and later through my binoculars, a feeling of amazement fills my mind. Some one has converted hundreds of these rocks, into lingas of God Shiva accompanied by his bull, Nandi. This place is known as Sahasralingam, which literally means thousand lingas. This river is known as Shalmala. This river originates somewhere near Dharwar and joins the Arabian Sea on the west. The spot is really beautiful and well deserves a visit. 

A couple of Shiva Lingas in the bed of Shalmala river

The Shiva bulls or nandis carved in river bed rocks

Yet no one knows for sure, who carved out these many lingas and the Nandi bulls in the river bed. However it is known that this place belonged to the king of Sonde, a place nearby, which now is just a village. Only sign of this ancient kingdom today is an old fort lying in ruins nearby. This King of Sonde had invited 29th successor Guru of one Vishvavandya Sarswati, who was appointed by Great Hindu Guru Shankarachraya at Kashi (Benares) as Guru of Havig Brahmanas of Gokarna temple, to come to this place and settle down. The Sonde king built a monastery for him and endowed it with land . This 29th Guru and his successors lived at this place quietly. This place was known as Sahasralinga even then because of the natural shapes of rocks in river bed, which looked like Linga of Shiva even in those times. It is obvious that for a long time people from this Math or monastery must have commissioned sculptures to create Shiva Lingas and the bulls in the river bed, so that these look more authentic. Whatever may be the true history, no one can deny the fact that this place is an extremely beautiful natural picnic spot. The local government has now built a suspension or a hanging bridge at some distance. An excellent vies of the river bed is available from the bridge.

Hanging bridge on Shalmala river

After so much of site seeing in a day. I am feeling tired no doubt. I decide to have some Tea, hot, sweet and milky, in the true Indian style. The Tea, even in this hot weather, refreshes me and I am ready for the next spot on my itinerary.


Historically speaking, perhaps the most important place in South Sahyadris region, in the vicinity of Yellapur, is the town of ‘Banvasi’. This town has know history of at least 2250 years. There is recorded history that shows that in the year BC 242 or shortly after the great council of the eighteenth year of Maurya Emperor Ashoka , a Buddhist missionary called “Rakshita” was sent to Banvasi to spread Buddhist religion. This ‘Banvasi’ town is located on the left bank of the ‘Varda’ river about 22 kilometers South-East of Sirsi.

I am on my way to Banvasi town now. A straight road in the interior, connects Sirsi with Banvasi and after first few kilometers, where there are dense forests on both sides of the road, it passes through much cultivated lands. Beside paddy fields, I can also see fruit orchards and pineapple cultivations. We pass through many small villages, with neat and good looking buildings. Farmers here, appear to be doing quite well. The villages appear politically very active with flags of BJP (a political party) flying everywhere. The main road through Banvasi town itself is a narrow single lane road and in case two vehicles confront each other, one needs to back out a considerable distance, before traffic can smoothen out again.
It gives me kind of strange feeling that I am visiting a town, which is couple of millenniums old. Near my home town Pune, there are famous ancient cave temples at Karle village. Apparently, one of the cave temples there was built by a merchant from this Banvasi town sometime in BC 100. Banvasi was known as Vaijayanti then and similarly a mention is found in the famous Buddhist cave (numbered II) at Nashik in Maharashtra about the great Vaijayanti army.Ref 1  In the second century, Greek geographer Ptolemy mentions this city as Banaausi or Banauasi. From an stone inscription found in Banvasi, it is believed that a king named “ Haritiputra Shatkarni ” from the Satavahan Dynasty of Mahrashtra ruled this town during Ptolemy’s time ( 2nd century).
However, Banvasi is well known as the capital of the kingdom of Kadamba kings, who ruled from here since fourth or fifth century and the first Kadamba king is believed to be “ Trilochana ”. An indirect proof of their rule is found in the famous inscription about Chalukya King Pulakeshi II (AD 647), which mentions a siege laid by this famous king around Banwasi. Chalukya kings however won control over Banavasi at some later date and established rule over it. In those times (AD 947-48) Banvasi kingdom comprised of 12000 villages. In the year 1020, Arab geographer Al-Baruni mentions this place in his book as Banvas. From eleventh to thirteenth century, Banvasi was again ruled by second line of Kadamba kings, who lost it to the Devgiri Yadava kings. From fourteenth century it was ruled by Vijayanagara kings till their overthrow. After fall of Vijayanagara, Banvasi was ruled by the Sonde kingdom mentioned by me above in connection with another site worth visiting, Sahasralingam. Arsappa and Raghu Naik were the first two Sonde kings of Banvasi during that period.
In spite of availability of such detailed record of its glorious history, not many remnants can be found in the village, except for a temple of Lord Shiva, named as Madhukeshwara. I am on my way to this temple now. Though the main road leading to the temple is extremely narrow, enough space is available for parking of vehicles in front of the temple entrance. As I get down, I see a huge wooden chariot with beautifully engraved sides. kept in a garage like shade. This chariot is used for parading the idol through Banvasi town in the month of February every year, to celebrate the auspicious day of Mahashivaratri. 

Elephant sculptures at the temple entrance 

Sunlight shines on a stone pillar on the portico

Garuda Stambha or the pillar of the eagle

Engraved figure at the base of the pillar

The temple courtyard propper is enclosed by a stone wall, at least 12 to 15 feet high. Two huge statues of elephants welcome the visitors. Behind the elephant statues, an elevated portico has been built with beautifully carved stone pillars to support the roof. Intricate carvings are also seen on the sides of the elevated pedestal of the portico. As I enter the temple courtyard through the main gate, I see a tall square pillar in the front, called Garuda stambh or the Pillar of the Eagle, with an eagle carving at the base. The temple has 3 halls or mandapas, all having similar construction of an elevated pedestal and round stone pillars to support the roof,  in a line before the sanctum sanctorum, which houses a Shiva linga made from a honey coloured stone. This temple, built by Architect Jakhanacharya, a Hemadpant of the Kannada Desh, gets the name Madhukeshwara, from this honey coloured deity.

Madhukeshwara temple Banvasi; smaller shrine
 on the right is that of Madhumati

Side view of the temple showing three
 halls or mandapas in line

The Bull; Nandi ; Keeping an eye on 
the Lord and his wife

A huge 7 feet high sculptured stone bull or Nandi is placed in the first hall next to the Garuda stambha or the Pillar of the Eagle. The middle hall or mandapa has a circular raised platform, where danseuses used to perform in front of the Idol. This roof of this hall is supported on round stone pillars of intricate design. These pillars have convex and concave surfaces adjacent to each other, so that simultaneous reflections of the danseuses can be clearly seen on all sides creating a spectacular kind of optical effect. In the third mandapa, near the main entry door to the temple sanctum, an elaborately carved stone structure called Trailokya mandapa (Hall of heaven, earth and hell) is kept. 

Trailokya mandap ; representing Heaven, Earth and Hell

5 hooded serpant : symbolic representation of hell

Shiv and Parvati ride a bull ; symbolic representation of heaven

Figure engraved on the Trailokya mandapa

On the left hand side of the principal deity of Madhukeshwara, a smaller temple of Madhumati or Parvati is seen. The huge Bull in the first hall, is so sculptured that its one eye can be seen from the sanctum of the Madhukeshwara temple whereas its second eye can be seen from the sanctum of the Madhumati temple. The Bull appears to be keeping the eye on both Lord Madhukeshwara and his wife Madhumati. Near the outer courtyard wall, many rooms and shrines have been built, housing many deities such as Ganpati, which has only the right half here, the left half is supposed to be in Kashi (Benares), Nrusinha and Lord Kadambeshwar.

Fine architecture of Madhukeshwara temple

Intricate carvings on temple dome

An elaborately carved stone bed is kept in one of the courtyard rooms. Legs and posters of this bed are finely carved. This stone bed is used to carry the idol during February rath yatra or car festival and is a gift of King Raghu Naik of Sonde. In another shrine along the courtyard wall, a slab stone with a five hooded cobra engraving is kept. This slate has written words, which state that this slab was presented to the temple by “Haritaputra Shatkarni” sometime during first or second century. Banvasi temple without any doubt, is a store house of wealth of information for the people, who love history. There are as many as 11 stone inscriptions in the temple courtyard, most of these in ancient Kannada script.

Finely crafted stone bed poster

Idol of Vishnu

Engraving on door panel

A panel with Bass relief

I leave the Banvasi temple with a sad heart. This temple represents history of India for last 2250 years and yet has not been preserved the way it should be. This temple is a must see for anyone interested in ancient Indian history.
In front of the temple there is small stall selling freshly cut pineapples. I decide to have few slices. The tangy, sour taste is so delightful that I have some more. The return journey is uneventful. By the time, I reach my resort, I am extremely tired. I have early dinner and just hit the bed. 


There is something special about schooldays memories. Yet, most of school memories for me somehow, are sort of still, black and white photographs, like past moments frozen in time. Around 1954-55, I had toured Karnataka region, as a school going lad, on an school excursion. 

Whatever little memories of that trip remain with me are like black and white, still pictures. One of the pictures from that tour that remains permanently etched in my memory is of a huge water fall, very wide, with 4 or 5 distinct water flows. I had seen this water fall then, from a cliff on the opposite side of the water falls. I can vividly remember, the water falling over great height and creating a mist that had filed the entire valley between me and the fall on the other side. This water fall was one of the world’s highest water falls and was known as Gersappa falls then. I am recollecting this old and long forgotten memory, because our plan for today, includes a visit to this water fall. This waterfall is widely known today as “Jog falls”. I was told a story by someone yesterday, that this fall is called “Jog falls” because the contractor for a large dam built upstream of the falls in 1964, was a firm from Pune with this name. After checking up the history with my computer, I know for sure, that this story is absolutely rubbish. Gersappa is a small village on the banks of Sharavati river located about 16 miles east of coastal town of Honavar. “Jog” also happens to be a name of a nearby village. The falls were always locally known as Jog falls and this name was made official later.
I am on my way to Jog falls. State highway number 93 goes from Sirsi town to a place called Siddapur. The stretch of this road from a village known as Kansur to Siddapur passes through dense forests. At Siddapur an interior road to Mavingundi branches off. We take this road up to Mavingundi town and then join National Highway no.206, which takes us right up to a bridge on Sharavati river. After crossing this bridge, vista point for the Jog falls, is just a kilometer away.
Our vehicle comes to a hault. I get out of the vehicle and look around. Karnataka state tourism department has developed a huge parking space here with all kinds of tourist amenities like wash rooms, restaurants and places available for lodging around it. There is a well built stepped path, which takes a visitor right up to the edge of the cliff and around it’s periphery. 

Gersappa or Jog falls; before and after

My mind again goes back to fifties, when I had come here to see the famous water fall. There were hardly any amenities during those days. Our bus had stopped in an open space and we had carefully walked along a path under direct supervision of our teachers. On reaching the edge of the cliff, which was known as Watkin’s platform, what I had seen with my eyes, can never be forgotten. Ahead of me, was a deep cleft or a gorge at least 1000 feet deep. On the other side of the cleft, a sharp rocky cliff shaped like a hook with an handle was seen. From this rocky cliff four giant bodies of water were jumping or crashing down at least eight hundred feet. The water bodies were so big that they had formed white sheets of water. A huge cloud of white mist was formed from the water, which hammerd down the cleft, with a tremendous force. The mist was so thick that sometimes half of the fall disappeared behind it. And finally what I still remember was the massive roaring sound made by the water, which I could hear even where our bus was parked.
The Gersappa falls of the fifties can be seen these days very rarely only in rainy season (July-August). This is primarily because the Sharavati river has been stopped by a huge dam named as “Linganmakki dam”, constructed in 1964, about 6 kilometers upstream of the falls, this dam has reduced the water flow going down the falls. Only during rainy season, when the dam reservoir is overflowing, one can see the full fury of Gersappa falls. 

Jog falls today

Waters of raja, Roarer and rocket hit the pool of water 
at bottom

Having known that I would not be able to see the glory and the majesty of the yesteryear’s, I am sort of resigned to see, whatever that remains, of a much depleted water fall. I move along the stepped path and go right up to the edge of the cliff. Ahead of me again is the same deep cleft and the same rocky cliff shaped like a hook with a handle. Its almost mid day with Sun blazing from overhead. I am able to see clearly pools of water formed by the water falling from the top, the river and rocks in the bed and there is no mist. Not even traces of it. May be because it is mid day, the mist has disappeared, or with depleted quantity of water falling, it never forms now. Without the mist, the Gersappa or Jog falls have lost their mystery and the magic for sure.

Watkin’s platform

The four falls still exist. The ‘Raja” or the King fall, is also known as Grand fall or Main fall or Horse-shoe fall. It falls over the cleft, 830 feet down in an unbroken sheet, from deeply cut back right side of the hook shaped cliff, forming a little white mass, a mere trickle of water, sweeping a smooth and graceful curve and finally looses itself in clouds of spray as it hits the pool of water at the bottom.
About 1000 feet to the left and still in the bend of the hook, is the second fall. This one is well known as the Roarer, because of the noisy fury it used to create. Now a days it falls meekly from a point somewhere half way down and meets the water of Raja fall almost at the bottom. During days of its glory, Roarer used to fall from the top of the cliff and it’s water used to hit against the Raja fall somewhere mid air creating that mystical and magic mist in the cleft. As I see it today, I feel that it should be called whimperer and not Roarer. The third fall about 700 feet left of Roarer and in the handle of the hook, is known as “ Rocket” and has fortunately maintained somewhat of its previous glory. It first falls a sheer drop of about 100 feet on an projecting rock and then rockets itself into the cleft to turn down later downwards in a graceful sweep 700 feet down. 500 feet to the left of the “Rocket” fall, a gentle fall earlier known as “La Dame Blanche” or popularly known today as “Rani” or queen fall, glides quietly over the slope looking like a white strip of muslin.
Gersappa or Jog falls used to be compared with the major water falls in the world. It is no longer comparable even with the mid sized water falls of the world and can be considered as a major water fall of the world only during days of monsoon fury. 

Captain Cruickshank’s Bungalow?

On the right side of the “Raja fall” I can see some nicely built Bungalows. I do not know whether these are the old structures or have been built in recent days. This is the site where one Captain Cruickshank of the garrison of Royal Engineers, had built a masonry bungalow in 1868 for high ranked British officers. In those days, view of the falls from this place was something out of this world. It was so close to the fall that the roar of the water sometimes used to shake the windows and the doors. Today, I am doubtful whether the falls can be even seen from this site. The roar of the falls now turned down to whimper, may not be even heard today.
I go around various vista points and nicely constructed suspension bridges around the periphery of the Watkin’s platform. I have to hunt for a place so that I can get all the falls from top to bottom in a single photograph. I find a place, but the photographs disappoint me thoroughly.
I get into the vehicle again and we leave for our onwards journey. We branch off to a road on right going to a place called Kargal, just before the bridge on Sharavati river. I pass through another bridge on a river like water body. This is a man made river and takes the Sharavati waters to the head works of the Hydro Electric Power generating project run by Karnataka Power Corporation. I am now traveling southwards on this road, which runs through the land situated in between two huge water reservoirs. On my left, is the lake formed by Sharavati river itself, because of the Linganmakki dam and on my right, is a reservoir called Talakalale, which is actually a sort of storage reservoir for the excess waters of the river. The road has been laid for a continuous stretch along hill tops, which stand as a barrier between these two water bodies. The entire area between these two water bodies is now densely forested. Many of the jungles here must have come up during last half a century, since this dam was built. I pass through Kargal village. Few kilometers down the road I see a narrow earthen track, which can barely allow our vehicle to pass. There is a welcome arch with a gate, which incidentally is closed. A sign board on the arch says that “Welcome to the Muppane Wildlife Sanctuary ”. In reality, we are locked out of it. There is some confusion. We are told that we should have obtained entry permits at the Kargal village, through which we passed through little while ago. After further confusion, heated discussions and further delays a forest guard finally appears with the keys. After spending about 30 to 40 minutes on the roadside, appreciating the beauty of forest land, we are finally let in. 

The Jungle path

The vehicle turns, heaves and whimpers as the narrow earthen track turns at impossible angles and inclinations. We are now in the middle of a dense forest. After traveling roughly 3 kilometers I see some open space ahead for parking. Vehicle is parked and I get down. I look around on all sides, but only thing that I can see around, are thick forests, not allowing even sun light to filter through. Ahead of me, I can see an even smaller earthen track, going deeper into forests. To negotiate this track, one needs a station wagon, which we do not have. I have therefore no choice but to move on foot along this track. In spite of heavy forest cover, walking along this track is a pleasure. Traveling down about half a kilometer, I see a huge body of water. The water and the trees create a scene of pristine beauty. 

Pristine beauty of Muppane wild life preserve

This place is actually a tourist camp organized by the tourism department. There is guest house and space for tents. For jungle lovers, this is one of the ideal spots to spend few days. The water is clean and absolutely tranquil. It is possible to cook here, swim and spend time without any hassles of the modern urban life. I am not sure whether this body of water is the Linganmakki dam reservoir or the Talakalale balancing reservoir. However my guess is in favour of the latter. It is of no use asking anyone, because no one knows for sure. The tourist handouts talk only about Linganmakki reservoir, so it could be just that also.

The waterfront

Walking through the Jungle

After spending some time here, I am now on my return journey to the resort. As we pass through the Jog falls area once again, I wonder that in future what may remain in my memory? The Gersappa falls that I have seen as a school going lad or the pathetic water trickles of Jog falls, which I have seen today. You may as well guess the answer. My school days Gersappa scores over Jog falls any day and on any count.


To overcome my disappointment with the Jog falls, someone suggested yesterday evening, a visit to Magod falls, another fall in the vicinity of Yellapur. The idea has been approved by everyone and after sumptuous breakfast of south Indian snacks and egg omelets, I am ready for another jungle adventure. The only road to Magod falls, branches off from National Highway No.63 (Hubli-Karwar Road) roughly 3 Kilometers west of Yellapur and immediately heads south. We therefore head for Yellapur first. Yellapur is a medium sized town with a population of about 25000 people. It is a typical highway town with Hubli-Karwar road passing through it. Number of tea stalls, vehicle maintenance shops and eateries can be seen along the main road. Today happens to be the Deepavali day and Yellapur market is flooded with flowers. Marigolds and Jasmins are being sold by heaps. Houses, cars, two wheelers are all adorned with garlands. It feels kind of nice to pass through such heady intoxicating fragrance of the flowers, instead of usual unpleasant smells of open gutters, that always exist in such small towns. Yellapur appears to be a wealthy town doing brisk business in selling Arecanuts. I also see many lush green paddy fields on the outskirts.
As we branch off on the Magod road, a dense forest welcomes us. The road is very narrow and the trees on both sides are so tall and big that their branches are intermingling somewhere above, blocking all sun light completely.

Way to Magod falls

A giant anthill

I decide to walk some distance and alight from the vehicle. I am no botanist yet I can identify few trees here like  Teak wood, Jamba, Silk cotton or Sawar,  Kindal or Kinjal, Jambhul etc. There must have been a thunderstorm here last night because the road is still wet and at many places, I see number of broken branches and twigs lying on the road. I see a tall (at least couple of feet high) anthill, sculptured in a a very systematic fashion. Magod village is just 15 kilometers from Yellapur, with this branch road covering about 12 Kilometers. Yet, with that kind of road and the conditions, we take more than a hour to reach the destination. Magod village is a kind of scattered village with few houses spread over a large area. The final approach to Magod is through a very thick evergreen forest. At the village, few tourist facilities such as toilets can be seen. From Magod village, a path slips down the hill for a short distance and crosses a narrow ridge. Beyond the ridge it climbs a round outstanding hill, thick with bamboo shoots. The hill top, commands an easterly view of the upper Bedthi river valley. Vista points have been created all along this path with good steel railings for protection, to view the grand panoramic view of this river falling over 800 feet down at Magod falls.

Panaromic view of Magod falls

Magod falls: main body of water

Magod falls; mist and rainbow

I go round the various vista points, looking for suitable spots to take photographs of the falls. Unlike Jog falls, there is plenty of water in the river and the falls are worth a visit. However there is no straight line fall here like Jog. The Bedthi river tumbles first along a series of gentle rapids into a big pool of water, gathers speed and then hurls itself over a cliff more than 200 feet high high. From that point the river, hemmed by a sheer rock wall at least 800 feet high , forces its way along a rugged channel round the base of the hill, on whose top I am standing now. On the other side the river is joined by another stream coming down in a fall called Buttermilk fall. The Bedthi river is named as Gangavalli river after this point and flows west. The main body of water hurling itself down hammers the bottom so hard that even from such a height I can clearly see the mist formed and as afternoon sun shines brightly at the top, I can see two beautiful rainbows formed at the bottom. I spend as much time as possible at the falls, thoroughly enjoying the amazing spectacle. However the time passes quickly and I have to leave the place. While returning, I see for the first time, many black eyes watching me sharply. I realize that there are monkeys everywhere here watching my every step for an opportunity to grab any bites of food.

Dense forests near Chandguli

In the temple of bells

While returning by the same jungle path, we make a detour and stop at a place called ‘Chandaguli’. It is really a hamlet with few small buildings standing there. One of the buildings is with a tower and a sign board has been put up there to indicate to the visitors that it is a Ganesha or the elephant God temple. There is nothing exciting about this place except for one little fact. Each and every visitor to this temple presents to the God a metal bell, the size of which varies according to his financial ability. The temple has become a museum of bells. There are bells of all sizes and shapes. Bells hang on the walls, roof, entrance and walls of the temple. From tiny bells to huge church bells, all sizes are accommodated here. For this reason, the temple is known as Ganta Ganesha temple or the Ganesha temple of bells.
I get back to the vehicle and we move on. All of us are really hungry now, yet we make another stop over on our way back at a moderately sized lake called Kavadikere lake. There is also a temple of a Goddess there. The lake waters look very placid, tranquil and serene. After a brief visit to the temple, we are on our way back. Today has been a good day for sight seeing. After lunch, there would be plenty of time to relax.

Kavadikeke lake
Sahyadri mountains are not new to me. My home city of Pune sits right in the middle of these mountains. In fact some of the foot hills are so near my house, that right from my childhood, I have been wandering over the hills. Yet, motoring in the southern end of the same mountain range of Sahaydris has given immense pleasure to me for last few days. Southern Sahyadris really differ from the north. The dense and deep woods, Jungles, pristine lakes, water falls, its a different world here altogether. My trip to this part of India may be over now, but, for sure, I would remember these wonderful sights for rest of my life.


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