Off the beaten track

Print edition : July 04, 2008

A vineyard near Bangalore. The State plans to promote wine tourism in its grape-growing region.-K. GOPINATHAN

With tourists seeking new destinations, the Karnataka Tourism Department is all set to bring lesser-known places to their attention.

THE monsoon season is when hordes of tourists from India and abroad flock to the Jog Falls in Karnataka to watch the breathtaking drop of the Sharavathi river from a height of 250 metres. But not many, even those living in the State, know of another exotic waterfall, the Keppe Jog near Mavin Gundi, located only a few kilometres away. Equally beautiful are the dozen other waterfalls in Uttara Kannada district, including the Lalguli, Shivaganga and Magod Falls, all of which spring to life during the monsoons. While the Gaganchukki Falls at Shivanasamudra, near Bangalore, attracts a large number of tourists, the Bharachukki Falls, just 8 km away from there, gets only a few. The Kadambi Falls at Kudremukh and the Honnammanahalla Falls in Chickmagalur are also little known.

With tourists seeking new destinations, the Karnataka Tourism Department is all set to bring these lesser-known places onto their radar screens. Some of these destinations, though important to local people, have been overshadowed by the bigger monuments or destinations that are popular on the tourism circuit. Just 3 km away from Bijapur, which attracts thousands of visitors to its famed Gol Gumbaz, is a place known as Saat Kabar (which literally means 60 graves). Legend has it that Afzal Khan, one of Adil Shahis commanders, had 60 wives, whom he killed before going to war and later built graves for.

Another interesting place not known to many is the 12th century Sahasrapani Parsvanath temple complex, located adjacent to the Bijapur jail. As the name suggests, the deity Parsvanath has 1,000 hoods, and milk poured on one hood gets distributed equally to the others. Among other historical sites that are not yet popular include Basadihalli, near Halebid in Hassan district, where the Adinatha, Shanthinatha and Parsvanatha temples are located. A curious aspect of these temples is that the figurines on the pillars look as if they are concave and convex images. Though many people visit the Hoysalesvara and Shanthalesvara temples in Halebid, they are not aware of the existence of these other unique temples.

The Kedaresvara temple at Balligave and the Neelakantesvara temple at Nagara in Shimoga district and the Veeranarayan temple at Belavadi in Chickmagalur district are among the ancient temples that are yet to become popular. A 1,000-pillared basadi known as Tribhuvana Tilaka Chudamani and the Adinatha and Chandranathesvara basadis are among the nearly 20 basadis in and around Moodabidri in Dakshina Kannada district.

The tourism sector in Karnataka is changing its profile by introducing niche tourism circuits to cater to target groups. Having identified this potential, the Horticulture Department is set to launch wine tourism and horticulture tourism, while the Tourism Department in collaboration with the Forest Department is executing eco-tourism projects in the Western Ghats.

To promote wine tourism, the States grape-growing region has been divided into Nandi Valley and Krishna Valley. This region will witness tourism growth once a wine policy is put into place that will allow wine buffs to taste the best wines produced in the State. Trying to harness its resources, the Horticulture Department is also looking to develop the botanical gardens in the hill stations where it owns large tracts of land, including Nandi Hills near Bangalore, Kemmangundi in Chickmagalur district and Biligiri Ranga Hills in Chamrajnagar district.

Eco-tourism is set to receive a boost with four projects, coming up at Talacauvery in Kodagu district, the birthplace of the Cauvery river; Gopinatham in Chamrajnagar district, which shot into prominence as brigand Veerappans birthplace; Bhagavathi in Kudremukh National Park in Chickmagalur district; and Seethanadi in Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary in Udupi district. Added to these projects are some being executed by Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd., a wildlife and eco-tourism company. So, the footloose traveller in Karnataka need no longer tread the beaten track.

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