Monday, 18 March 2013

Kemmangundi-Reaching for the clouds

Emperors and poets have fallen in love with it. So have lakhs of people who have visited it. The name of this place itself is mysterious and romantic.
It was once the summer retreat of the Wodeyars who built a small but beautiful palace here. They then donated the palace to the State Government, which today owns it.  The view of the Sunset from the erstwhile royal residence is absolutely stunning and it is once in a lifetime experience.
If “Kunidhu Kunidhu Bare” from the Kannada film Munguru Male showed Jog in all its glory, there have scores of films that have showcased the beauty of this place and they are so many of them that it would be a shame to name only a few.
Kannada film legend Dr. Raj Kumar stayed here for the shooting the film Premada Kanike which was shot here. More than 40 per cent of Kannada films have picturised the beautiful landscape rolling hills, gurgling streams, rising sun and misty mornings. 
Tamil actor Kamalahassan shot here for his film Panchatantiram and made a reference to this place.
Over the last few centuries it has also been attracting the religious minded. It has become the seat of controversy as the deity here is claimed by two communities. Though outsiders have jumped into the fray, the local people here have always lived a life of peace and calm.
Poets and writers have sung realms in praise of this area. Karnakata’s Rastra Kavi, K.V. Puttappa or Kuvempu as he is more affectionately known, sang about it beauty. This place is also home to the tallest peak in Karnataka.
Though it is popularly known as the Queen of Hill Stations, it is still thankfully not as popular as say Ooty, Kodaikanal or any of the other surrounding hills.
This is Kemmengundi, a magical hills station in Chikamagalur district of Karnataka. A remarkable place, it has water falls, trekking paths, forests, wildlife, temples, hills, deep ravines, gardens, parks and what not.     
A tourist paradise, Kemmangundi has remained relatively off the tourist radar compared to hills and forests surrounding it such as BR Hills, MM Hills, Gopalaswamy Betta and Madikeri.
Kemmangundi is also known as Sri Krishnarajaendra Station. This name is in memory of Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the fourth, who built a small palace or rather bungalow here. It was his favourite hill station and summer retreat. The Maharaja often watched sunsets from the bungalow and went on horseback around. The horse trail can still be seen and you can enjoy a ride.
The Maharaja later donated the bungalow to the Government and now its management vests with the Department of Horticulture.
There is a beautiful place called Z-point which is about 10 minutes walk from the bungalow. This point gives a fantastic view of the surrounding forests. Kamal Haasan's Panchatantiram has a reference to this.
Kemmangundi is in Tarikere taluk and it is located at a height of 1434 meters above sea level. Kemmangundi is also known as Sri Krishnarajendra Hill Station.
Kemmangundi is surrounded by the beautiful Baba Budan Hills, which is the home of the Dattatreya Peeta and the Dargah of Baba Budan.  The cave holding both the shrines has become controversial and there is heavy police bandobast.
By the way, coffee came to India thanks to Baba Budan and Chikamagalur is home to some of the most evocative local coffee. Sip the coffee and spend time.  
Kemmangundi is known for its tastefully laid out gardens, magnificent mountain ranges and superb valleys. No wonder filmmakers have always chosen this spot. Many films of Dr. Raj Kumar were shot in and around Kemmangundi.
The main attractions are the Raj Bhavan  or the guest house of the Governor, Z point and the Rose garden which is maintained by the Horticultural Department.
The view of the Sunset from the Raj Bhavan is nothing short of a heavenly experience. The clouds floating above seem so near and the wild Nature beneath seem a perfect setting for a family.
The trek or drive from Mullayanagiri to Kemmangundi is nothing short of poetry of Nature. It is Nature at its very best and remember Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka.
Some of the tourists spots. Which are described in more detail, are as follows:

Z point

This is a vantage point it and can be reached by a rather steep uphill trek of about 45 minutes from Raj Bhavan. This is one of the many places in Kemmangundi to view the Sunset. The Shanti Falls is nearby. The best time to trek is either in the morning or late afternoon.

Rose garden

This is one of the most beautiful gardens in the area. It is maintained by the Department of Horticulture. There are several varieties of  roses and they are a treat to watch and enjoy.

Hebbe Falls

This is about eight kms from Kemmannugundi. The water here falls from a height of  168 meters in two stages. The first stage is called Dodda Hebbe  or Big Falls and the second which is smaller is called Chikka Hebbe  or Small Falls.
The Falls is about eight kms from Raj Bhavan.
Jeeps are available to Hebbe falls and the charge is Rs. 700 to Rs. 1200  for a trip but this depends on the number of people.

Kallathi falls

This is near Kallathi village and it is 10 km. from Kemmangundi. It is on the road from  Kemmangundi to Tarikere. A small deviation on this road will take you to the falls. It is also known as Kallathigiri falls and Kalahasthi falls.
Water falls from a height of 122 metres and the temple here belongs to the Vijayanagar period. According to a local legend, this place is associated with the Rishi Agastya. This is part of  Kallahattagiri Parvata or Hills.

Baba Budangiri Hills

It houses the dargah of Baba Budan and also the Dattatreya shrine in a cave. The hill is rich in iron ore. It is one of the highest peaks in the area and it is surrounded by hundreds of  acres of  coffee plantations.
It is also called Rajendra hill. It is
24 kms from Kemmannagundi. Baba Budan was originally known as Hazarath Dada Hayath Mir Kalandar.

Kallahatta Giri

Another hill is Kallahatta Giri. It is 6,115 feet high. It is also known as Chandra Drona Parvatha. The water falls here is among the best.

Horse way

A small narrow path in Kemmangundi is called the Horse way as the Maharajas of Mysore used to go on horse back to view the  sunrise and sunset at  Z point.
 Jagara Pass and  Jagara Valley

This is another scenic place near Kemmangundi. It is just 16 kms  from Kemmannagundi. The valley is full of beautiful flowers, rare plants and wildlife .peaks of Kemmanagundi.
The Rock garden has well laid out pathways carved out of rock. It has a variety of flowers and some of them are rare. The Bhadra Reservoir can be seen from the Rock GardenShankar Sholapradesha

This is five kms from Kemmannagundi. The Department of  Horticulture has been producing potato seeds in five acres here. The Department also grows several vegetables, fruits and flowers


Mullayanagiri is the tallest peak in Karnataka. The temple atop the hill is famous. The road from Kemmangundi to the peak is scenic. The roads are narrow but the Nature is so scenic that you tend to forget everything.
It is the highest peak between the Nilgiris and the Himalayas. Reach out for the clouds here.
Other attractions nearby are Manikya Dhare where eater falls like a pearl drop. Hence the name Manikya or pearl. The Shiva Temple in Kemmangundi is equally well known.
Accommodation is available at Kemmangundi and Kalhatti village. You can easily book accommodation at the office of the Director of Horticulture, Lalbagh, Bangalore. Call 080-26579231 at Lalbagh for details.
Kemmannugundi is 53 km from Chikamagalur and 17 kms from Lingadahalli. The nearest National Highways, NH no-206 or NH no-48 connect Kemmangundi to Bangalore. There is another route via Mullayanagiri, which is simply beyond description. The nearest railway station is Tarikere which is 35 kms away. The nearest airport is Mangalore which is 150 kms away.
Not for nothing is Kemmangundi called the Ooty of Karnataka.

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