Mercara Magic: Tourist Talk

Mercara Magic: Tourist Talk

Hello Friends,

Photo and Words by: PV Natarajan. Beautiful Times, thanks Mr.Natarajan for the detailed and informative narration of his trip to the magical Mercara.

Many of you might have heard of Mercara alias Madikeri. This beautiful hill station is situated at an altitude of 1200 meters approximately in Karnataka. This is a small town with a population of less than 30 thousand. It’s in a region called Coorg (Kodagu in Kannada). And the best time to visit Mercara is during monsoon.

How to reach Mercara?

Nearest rail station is Mysore. From there it’s less than 130 kms, 2 hours drive by car and the roads are good. From Bangalore it’s around 250 kms and a 5hrs drive by car. A good place to stop over for breakfast on the way is Hansur.

What are the popular tourist spots in Mercara?

 Abby Falls:

Abby Falls is 7kms from the town and you need to climb up (zig zag climbing).  The climb could well be a challenge for seniors. The fall is barricaded tourists cannot take bath etc., unlike the Kutralam falls. Tourists can onle only see and enjoy the beauty of the falls. Water gushing down at the falls was with moderate velocity due to the not very active monsoon in Coorg.

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Water cascade at Abby Falls

Thala Kaveri:

Thala Kaveri is 45 kms away and takes roughly an hour to reach from Mercara. This is the place where where Kaveri river commences its journey. The peculiarity of this river is that it does not originate from a falls from Western Ghats, but originates from a spring. The spring never becomes dry and it is situated at a height of 4200 sq.ft.

While there are varied versions of its origin, the popular version is that, Kaveri is regarded as the outpour of sage Agasthya’s Kamandala; it is said the Lord Ganesha, assuming the form of a crow, upset Agasthya’s Kamandala to release the Kaveri. They have channeled the spring water through a tank and from the tank through an outlet it flows into a nearby field as a small stream. As Agasthya sage is associated with the river, there is a Shiva temple in the area. It is said that the Linga was established by sage Agasthya. Hence the deity is called ‘Agastheeswara’.

Dubare Forest Reserve:

Dubare forest reserve and Dubare elephant camp/sanctuary are places one should never miss.  The reserve forest has a backwater formation from Kaveri. Boating and rafting are allowed here. Rafting is only for those who are less than 60 years. For youngsters, rafting turns out to be an exhilarating experience.

Boat takes you to the other side to the elephant sanctuary where at scheduled times you can watch elephants taking bath, being fed etc.  Even elephant Safari is available. You need to reach early morning to partake in all these. (By 8 AM). It’s also a resort where cottages are rented out on daily basis to visitors. (If you wish to stay in a sanctuary).

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Elephants at Dubare

Tibetan Monastery:

The Tibetan Monastery or the Tibet Camp as locally called is a Tibetan settlement at Bailkoppa/Baylkuppe is the second largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet. There are over 7000 monks and students at the Tibetan monastery.

The monastery has a huge Golden temple. The altar of the temple has a 60ft tall golden Buddha statue which is the major attraction of Bailkoppa. The statue of Buddha is flanked with the statues of Padmasambhava, and Amitayus which are of 58ft tall. The walls of the temples and the institutions are decorated with colorful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology. The altar is decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks.

Apart from the calm and peaceful surroundings there are shopping centers near the temples where one can shop for traditional Tibetan items like costumes, statues, carpets, jewelery etc.

An interesting comment of a visitor was “Amazing! They came as refugees but they have constructed such a huge complex and the natives work for them as cooks/ maids!” 

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Tibetan Monastery

Raja’s Seat:

It’s a famous tourist spot of the town and is developed as a park. Apparently Rajas who ruled back then used to occupy this elevated mandap and enjoy the scenic views of sunrise and sunset. The paddy fields and the forests can be beautifully viewed from that spot as the park is at higher level.

Additionally there is also a Mercara Fort which houses a Museulm as well. We missed this owing to a Govt. holiday.

Omkareshwar Mandir:

There is also a famous Shiva temple in the town called Omkareshwar Mandir. It was built by LingarajendraII in 1820. The peculiarity of the temple is that it is in the Muhammadan style of architecture with a dome in the center and four minarets at four corners. Nowhere in India can you see this type of architecture for a temple and it houses a huge temple tank at the front.

What kind of food is available in Mercara?

Being a vegetarian is a problem in Kodugu. This area is famous for its cuisine, which is of non-vegetarian category.  Hence, non-vegetarians can have a wonderful time eating out.

What can you shop for in Mercara?

First and foremost: Coffee. The area is full of coffee estates and they sell the coffee powder at around ₹400 per kg. Almost the price we pay in Chennai. But they add 20% chicory. Tea is not grown there nor can you get dry fruits.

Next is spices. Cardamom, pepper, cinnamon are must buys. They are cheaper than Chennai. For eg. you get cardamom @140 per 100 gms.

Coorg Honey is also famous.  Be careful not to buy the sugar water mixed. The pure honey is sold by Govt. Of Karnataka. 500 gms is ₹160.

Chocolates are also good and are must buys.

Where can you stay at Mercara?

Homestays are popular cost effective options to stay. The natives let out a furnished portion/ground floor of their houses. They also provide breakfast. You will find boards notifying it in many bungalows. Of Course, there are resorts in coffee estates. It depends on one’s taste.  At the top end, the Taj group also has a hotel there.

Useful Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madikeri

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/karnataka/madikeri-mercara

Cheers

Bhuvana Rajaram

bhuvanarajaram9@gmail.com

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