Saturday 3 November 2012

Motoring down the Tunga and Bhadra

Tunga Paana, Ganga Saana

I had just completed my degree and I came to visit my grandparents at Mysore. After spending some time, I decided to go  to Shimoga where I met a few friends of mine.
All of us had enough time on our hands and we decided to drive down the Tungabhadra river and visit the tourist and pilgrim spots en route to our final destination of  Sangameshwaram in Andhra Pradesh.
We decided to follow the trail of  the Tunga and Bhadra rivers from its origin in Chikamagalur. In the first part of  trip, we split up into two teams and went down the two rivers from their source of origin. We met at Kudli or Koodli near Shimoga where both the Tunga and Bhadra meets and travelled together on the onward jurnet.  So here are some details of the trip.
The Tungabhadra is a river in South India flowing through the states of  Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. During ancient ages, it was called Pampa.
The Tungabhadra is one of the major rivers of Karnataka along with the Cauvery and the Krishna. The Tungabhadra is made up of two rivers-Tunga and Bhadra and both originate in Chikamagalur district in Karnataka.
It has a length of 531 kms and covers a basin area of 71,429 kms. The Tunga and the Bhadra merge at Kudli in Bellary district. The Tungabhadra then joins the Krishna and flows into the Bay of Bengal.
The Tunga originates at Varaha Parvata near Gangamoola. It then flows through Chikamagalur and Shimoga taluks. This river is  147 km long. The water of  the Tunga is very sweet and you can see a lot of ants at the banks of the Tunga in Shimoga. Hence, the adage, “Tunga Paana, Ganga Snaana.”  It means drink Tunga water and bath in the Ganga.
The Tunga merges with the  Bhadra river at Kudli, a small town in Shimoga district.
The Bhadra too originates at Gangamoola but at a different place from Tunga near  Kudremukh. On its downward course it is joined by several smaller tributaries,  Somavahini near Hebbe, Thadabehalla, and Odirayanahalla.
The Bhadra flows through the towns of Kalasa, Horanadu, Balehonnur and N R Pura.
The beautiful Bhadra resrervior is at Lakavalli. The Bhadra then flows towards Bhadravathi and then joins the Tunga at Kudli. It is from this place the river is called Tungabhadra. It then flows eastwards and merges with the Krishna in Andhra Pradesh before emptying itself into the Bay of Bengal.
There re some important pilgrimage and tourist spots on the banks of the Tungabhadra.  The river was a lifeline for the mighty Vijayanagar Empire.
Today, the most important pilgrim spot on the banks of Tungabhadra is Mantralaya. This holy town is home to the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy. The Tungabhadra here is wide and also deep.
Lakhs of people visit Mantralaya for a darshan of Rayaru and also to perform Seve. Mantralaya is approachable by road but till recently the road used to get flooded during the rainy season. The nearest railway station is Mantralaya Road from where you have to take a taxi or auto to Mantralaya.
Mantralaya is also motorable from Raichur which is on the banks of the Krishna river. The land between Tungabhadra and Krishna is called the Raichur Doab and it was the bone of contention between the Vijayanagar Kings and Bahamani Sultans.
Please remember that Mantralaya is in Andhra Pradesh but it is very near to Raichur.   
Let me take you to other pilgrim centres across this river.

The first capitals of the Vijayanagar Kingdom before it was shifted to Hampi. Anegondi is located on perhaps the most ancient geological land formation. It is just across Hampi.
Anegundi is also known as Kishkinda. Check out the many spots associated with the Ramayana such as the place where Rama first met Sugreeva, the place where Vali and Sugreeva battled, the ash mound of  Vali, the cave where Vali vanished for a long time after which Sugreeva blocked it with a boulder, the place where Rama killed Vali.
Climb the Anjanadri Hill to pray at the post where Hanuman is believed to be born.    


The world famous ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire which dominated South India from 1336 to 1565. The entire city is in ruins and very little of the glorious Hampi that foreign travelers described as the most fabulous city in the world is left. Check pout the Hazare Rama Temple, the Vijaya Vittala Temple, the Virupakshi Temple, Kodandarama Temple, King’s Balance, Loctus Mahal, Elephant Stables, Stone Chariot,  Chakratheertha where there is an idol of Yantrodharaka Hanuman and brindavana of Narahari Theertrha.
Other places of interest in Hampi are the Mahanavami Dibba from where the Vijayanagar kings watched Dasara processions,  Queen’s Bath, idols of  Ganesha (Sasvekalu Ganesha).
Hampi is approachable either by road or train. The nearest city is Hospet or Bellary.

Nava Brindavana

Is one of the small islands of Tungabhadra. It is located between Hampi and Anegundi. It is home to nine revered Madhwa saints including Vyasa Theertha. The nine brindavanas belong to Padmanabha Theertha, Kavindra Theertha, Vageeshe Theertha, Raghuvarya Theertha, Vyasa Theertha, Rama Theertha, Srinivasa Theertha,  Sudhindra Theertha, Govinda Odeyar.
Nava Brindavana can be approached either from Hampi or Gangavathi or even Anegundi. Take a coracle ride (called Theppa in Kannada).  


It is a small village in Bellary district. It is 25 kms from Hampi and it has many monuments and temples dating back to the Vijayanagar period.


The gateway to Hampi. This town was built by Krishna Deve Raya.There is the beautiful Ananthashayana temple on way to Hampi.    

Ganga and Tunga Moola

This areas is in the Western Ghats and it is the place which gives birth to three rivers-Tunga, Bhadra and Netravathi. While the Tunga and Bhadra flow eastwards towards Shimoga, Netravathi flows westwards and joins the Arabian Sea.
Kudremukh is nearby and all the places are a trekker’s delight.

The Bhadra here is majestic. Kalasa is 92 kms from Chikamagalur. It has the famous temple of Kalleswara or Shiva.The name Kalasa is mentioned in Skanda Purana.
Other temples are of Chandranatha Swamy, Hanuman, Venkataramana and Mahalakshmi. Legends say Vasistha had his ashrama here. Check out this spot.
Khalasa contains five theerthas. They are called Pancha Theerthas and they are Vasishta Theertha, Naga Theertha, Koti Theertha, Rudra Theertha and Amba Theertha.
The temple of Annapoorneshwari is perhaps the most famous in this part. It was originally installed by Agastya.  The deity is made of  gold. The surroundings are beautiful. This is 100 kms from Chikamagalur.
This is a small town on Bhadra river. It is famous for spices.  It is the junction for Sringeri, Chikamagalur, Kudremukh.It is the home of the Rambhapuri Matha. It is 45 kms from Chikamagalur.
The Rambhapuri matha is a Veerashaiva institution with a link with the celestial dancer Ramba and the demon Rambasura.
Many of the films featuring Kannada actor Dr Raj Kumar was shot here. Locals will show you the spots.
NR Pura
Better known as Narasimharaja Pura. It has the beautiful temple of Simhanagadde Jwalamalini. This is a Jain temple and the deity is of Jwalamalini. The idol is black in colour.
Across Tunga river. Shimoga has so many spots of tourist and religious importance that it is difficult to pen them down. A few kms from Shimoga is its twin town Bhadravathi.
The palace of Shivappa Nayaka in Shimoga is worth a visit. The Gajanur dam which is 15 kms away is a beautiful picnic spot. The Tyarakoppa Lion safari is 12 kms away from Shimoga and located on the road to Sagar.


It is 20 kms from Shimoga. It gets its name from the Bhadra river that flows through it.
Bhadravathi has several Hoysala style temples. The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple was built by the Hoysalas in the 13th century. The  Hallammadevi temple in the heart of Bhadravathi is the largest temple of Malnad.
Bhadravathi is famous for the VISL steel plant set up by Sir M V Visvesvaraiah.

It is on the banks of Tunga.
The seat of the Sringeri Peetha and one of the mathas started by Shankaracharya. The Sharada Temple here is well-known. Legend has it that Shankaracharya was on his Sanchara when he spotted a snake spreading its hood and protecting a pregnant frog.
Sringeri is easily accessible from Shimoga, Bangalore and Mysore.
The Dasara festivities of Sringeri rivals that of Mysore and Madikeri.

It is also called Koodli. It is in Shimoga district and this is the place where Tunga and Bhadra meet.
The place where these two rivers meet is beautiful. There are three temples here-Rameshwara, Chintamani Narasimha Swamy and Sabgameshwara. Prahalada came and worshipped the idols here.
A Nandi is installed at the place where Tunga joins Bhadra. The Koodli Arya Akshoba Matha was started by Akshoba Theertha, the fourth and the last direct disciple of  Madhwacharya. There is also a Shankaracharya Matha.
Check out the  many inscriptions in the area.     


This industrial town is famous for the Harihareswar temple. The idol here is unique as it has the forms of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva).
During the Puranic age, this place was known as Guharanya as it was ruled by a demon of that name. Vishnu and Shiva took the form of Harihara and killed Gujasura. This combined entity came to be known as Harihara. The city too got the name.

It was the first capital of Andhra Pradesh before Hyderabad. The river Indravathi also called Handri joins Tungabhadra here.
It is called the gateway to Rayalseema. It is 212 kms from Hyderabad and the seventh most populous city in Andhra Pradesh.
The Konda Reddy fort here is worth seeing. There is tunnel leading from the fort to Gadwal. It was closed in 1900. Part of the tunnel is under the Tungabhadra river. This city is home to several ancient temples, mosques and nearly 60 dargas.


Not many tourists know that this was once an important centre during the period of the Chakulyas. Alampur is famous for the Nava Brahma temples constructed during the Chalukyan period.
As the name itself suggest, the temples are dedicated to the nine forms of Brahma.
There is also a temple to Jogulamba.
Alampur is 25 kms from Kurnool.   


This is the town where the Tungabhadra joins the Krishna. There is a Shiva temple here called Sangemashwaram.
The Sangameshwara temple is accessible only when the water level of the Srisailam dam comes down. Sangameshwaram is 10 kms from Alampur.

When you cruise down the Tungabhadra from Sringeri to Kurnool, you find stone structures acting as embarkment and flood protection walls. These were built by Krishna Deve Raya, the Vijayanagar Emperor between 1525 and 1527. These walls also prevent land erosion during flooding of the river.
PS: The drive through the districts of  Chikamagalur and Shimoga was through some of the most beautiful countryside we have ever seen. Food and accommodation was never a problem as we depended on temples and mathas.
We started our trip from Chikamagalur and motored down to Shimoga and from there turned towards Bellary and Raichur.We were eight friends on four bikes. While four of us went the Tunga way, the others follwed the Bhadra. We met at Koodli and continued the journey from there.
 Of course, we did not follow the river in its line but deviated at several places. The total ride was more than 1400 kms one way. It took us more than a fortnight to reach Sangameswaram.  I did not write about the roads and the manner in which we drove as I thought that these details are not that interesting as the places we covered. I wil uplaod a map and photos later.               

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