Tag Archives: karnataka

Demystifying Coorg

Coorg on the Western Ghats of Karnataka is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations of not only Karnataka but India as a whole. Unfortunately a lot of geographical misconceptions about the localities and distances abound in Coorg, which makes the tourists come back without seeing a lot of hidden attractions. Another problem is of crammed up itineraries of packing too much in too short a time thus making the tourists jaded rather than invigorated by the time the tour comes to an end.

Going by the number of mails we receive in our travel QNA section and frantic telephone calls to our travel counselors, from exasperated travelers asking about Coorg- distances, attractions, transports, ideal itineraries et al, most of them veer round primarily to a lot of misconception about the location.

Mapping Coorg

Mapping Coorg

Considering the lacunas, we have decided to come out with a breakthrough visual distance chart, which graphically traces all the important places of the Coorg(Kodagu) district and beyond. The purpose of this is to assist the enthusiastic travelers to unravel Coorg and also plan a well organized itinerary to make the most of this fantastic original “Coffee Country”.

So set forth and bust the long standing title of Coorg as “one of South’s better kept secrets”.

Madikeri

The confusion starts with Madikeri itself. Many people think that Madikari or Coorg are the same. Madikeri or Mercara is the district headquarters of Coorg aka Kodagu. Madikari is situated at a height of 5000 feet above sea level. A great place for walking leisurely or a purposeful trek amid lush green surroundings, innumerable little streams and expansive coffee and pepper plantations, Madikeri also offers typical tourist attractions like Fort, Abbey falls, Raja’s Seat, Omkareshwara Temple, Gandhi Mantapam.

Abbey Falls

Abbey Falls is located inside a privately owned coffee estate but is accessible to the tourists. It is just 5 km from Madikari and a jeep or taxi takes you to the coffee estate. Once inside the coffee fields a 10 minutes stroll will take you to the picturesque waterfalls.

Siddapur

Siddapur or Siddapura is located around 28 kms from Madikari through a winding driveway. The scenic views along with the fresh unpolluted hill air make the drive exhilarating. The Siddapur taluk offers some nice stay options and is well known for the spice gardens and myriad unfailing streams. Nearby attractions include Pollibetta(12 Km) home to a golf course and Ammathi known for its “hockey utsav”.

Kushalnagar

Kushalnagar is 35 kms from Madikari and is known for the beautiful Namdroling monastery of Tibetan Buddhist settlers nearby.

Nisargdhama

Kavery Nisargadhama is 3 kms from Kushalnagar and 30 km from Madikari. It is a beautiful 65 acre riverine island. The primary attraction of this picnic spot is a 90 m rope bridge that connects this island to the main land.  Other attractions of Nisargadhama include boat rides, elephant rides, deer park and the orchidarium.

Dubare Elephant Camp

Dubare Elephant Camp lies on the south bank of Kaveri River in easten Kodagu. It is located 40 kms from Madikari. Dubare is essentially an elephant capturing and training camp run by the Forest Department of Coorg. Location wise, Dubare is in between Siddapur and Kushalnagar. Visitors to this amazing place can indulge in feeding and bathing of Elephants.

Somwarpet

Somwarpet or Somvarpet is a small town in the northeast coorg and is approximately 40 kms from Madikari. Apart from its undulating natural beauty by way of vast coffee plantations and spice crops it is also the starting point of the trek to Kumara Parvata, one of the most beautiful peaks in the whole of Western Ghats. The trek starts at Bidalli 45 minutes from Somwarpet. Mallalli Falls, around 25 km from Somwarpet, Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary (30 km) towards Kukke Subramanya and Honnamana Kere(6km) are the nearby attractions.

Kakkabe

Kakkabe or Kakabe is one of the gateways to Coorg county and 45 kms from Madikari. With its heavy rainforest cover Kakkabe boasts of some rare orchids, dense forests and a birdwatcher’s paradise. Other attractions include Paddi Igutthappa/Subramanya Temple (2 km), Nalkad/Nalnad Palace and the Nilakandi waterfall (3 km).

Talacauvery

Talacauvery or Thalacauvery is 48 kms from Madikari and is the birthplace of the sacred Cauvery River. It is essentially a spring from which the Rivery Cauvery originates. The place is of immense religious significance.

Nagarhole National Park

Nagarhole National Park comprises three forest ranges namely- Nagarhole, Kallahalla and Thitimati. This National Park is a pachyderm’s paradise along with equally respectable other wild life species. A Safari on the dense jungles here is a special attraction.

Irpu Falls

Irpu Falls is 14 kms from Nagarhole National Park. Irpu or Iruppu Falls is located on outskirts of the Brahmagiri hill range and acts as the gateway to the range. The falls is formed by a tributary of Cauvery, Lakshmana theertha as it jumps down from a height of 170 ft. A temple dedicated to Lord Rama is also located nearby.

Kukke Subrahmanya

Going outside the coorg district but a place enjoing immense significance is the holy temple town of Kukke Subrahmanya. It is located in the Dakshin Kannada district just 100 kms from Madikari. The temple dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya, also revered as  Murugan, in south India lies on the banks of the river Kumaradhara at the base of the western Ghats.

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Mahashivaratri at Srikalahasti: Being the witness to faith

Maha Shivaratri celebrations of Srikalahasti are celebrated with gaiety and fervour. It is a major draw here. It does not matter if you are Shiv Bhakta or not, on Mahashivratri day of february 23 you must head for Kalahastiswara Temple at Srikalahasti and be witness to the spectacular sight of the sea of humanity descending for jal abhisekham of the lingam.

Srikalahasti is in the Chitoor district of AP just 36 km from Tirupati. Thousands and thousands of devotees congregate here from not only Andhra Pradesh but also from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Maha Shivaratri this time is also a bit special as this year it is coming on a Monday, the day of the lord. The festivities have already commenced at Srikalahasti with a ten day fair to mark the occasion. The whole town dazzles with huge illuminated cutouts of Lord Siva and the Linga.

The lord Srikalahasteeswara and his divine consort goddess Gnana Prasunambika are taken out in a colourful procession through the streets of the town. After that `Dhwajarohanam’ is performed. Later in the night ‘Lingodbhava abhiskam’ to lord Shiva takes place.

A great way to start the day before offering prayers to the lord is to take a holy dip in Swarnamuki River near the temple along with thousands of devout devotees.

Coming to importance of this ancient temple, supposed to have been built by the Chola dynasty, it is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the panchabhootha sthalams. Temples of the Panchabhootha sthalams celebrate Lord Shiva as an embodiment of the five basic elements that universe is made up of. Lord Shiva is worshiped at Srikalahasti Temple as Vayu Linga. This observation of the Puranas is supported to this day with a flickering flame present in the Garbhagraha of the temple even though no wind can enter the shrine.

Another interesting piece of information for those interested in knowing the reason behind the naming of this place, as per legend Sri (spider), Kala (cobra) and Hasti (elephant) supposed to have worshipped Lord Shiva here and subsequently attained liberation (Moksha.) Hence then the place came to be known as Sri-kala-hasti.

So be there and make your Shivaratri a sacred affair to remember.

The Srikalahasti Temple of Lord Shiva

The Srikalahasti Temple of Lord Shiva

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Luxury Tax: Lets not ignore the fine prints

When was the last time you were out for a vacation or business? Strong chances are you are already traveling and reading this post on your laptop. Have you ever taken note of a small but mighty thing printed innocuously on one small corner of your hotel Bill? Perhaps you haven’t. You are not alone as tourist fraternity does not give this a thought and only when you have to loosen the purse string an entity called “Luxury Tax” start biting you. It is this tax that sometimes keeps one of your favourite hotel or destinations out of your budget.

Let’s understand what a luxury tax is. Luxury Tax is a tax that is levied by most of the state governments (not all) to fill their coffers at the expense of you and me. And the funniest part is, you have to pay it actually on the official tariff of the room where you had put up. Take a hypothetical situation consider you are on a holiday, say at Ooty and the Hotelwallahs happily gave you a discount of 20 % on the rack rate. The rack rate is the one that is mentioned on the reception and the usual official rate. Supposing accommodation you chose was for Rs 1500 and the reception lady smilingly gave you the room for 1200, a 20% discount as it was off-season. You felt on top of the world to strike a good bargain in the hard times.

Now when it is the time to say adieu and pay the bills you are up for a rude jolt. You find that on the bill a 14% luxury tax has been levied and that too upon the rack rate which in this example was Rs1500.

Furious with anger at the thought of being cheated, you start haggling. Alas, not much headway could be made and you have to pay the tax of 14 % as applicable for hotels in Karnataka on the rack rate.

Coughing the extra amount you felt helpless and started cursing the agency which booked your hotel or the hotel owners. Little did you realize that the LT not only irks the ordinary travelers but is adding to the woes of hoteliers and the travel agents. Hit by recession and terror the hospitality industry is facing a lull, the luxury tax is not making it any easier. Most of the time we at IHR have to face a not so amused client venting his ire at the exorbitant Luxury Tax after the holiday is over.

Luxury Tax is something which varies in India from 5 to as high as 25%. Let’s see which states of “Incredible India” are the worst offenders. In the South the charge is led by Kerala with a whopping 15 % slap of Luxury Tax and then it is Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with 12.50 %, Andhra fares better with a somehow moderate 5 %.

Gateway to north, the capital Delhi fares worst with a levy of 12.5 % on room rents above 1000. Himachal and Rajasthan the two most oft visited tourist destination taxes @ 10%. UP with the Taj Mahal and Uttarakhand is better not only in terms of attractions but also light on your pocket with 5%.

Coming to the west and Central India Maharashtra and MP leads the brigade with 10 % , while Gujarat it seems is not only a good destination for investors it is tourist friendly too with only 4 % as Luxury Tax. In Matheran, a lovely hill station 80 km east of Mumbai inaddition to 10 % luxury tax charges another 5 percent as service charges.

On the eastern front Orissa, Bihar and Bengal does not make life easier for visitors with a 10% LT. Finally the North Eastern States, one had seriously hoped that the State Governments to be as friendly and simple as the local people. Putting all hopes to water the onslaught is led by Asaam, the gateway to the seven sisters of NE with a luxury tax of 20 %. The situation becomes additionally worse in Guwahati with a levy of another 5 % as service charges.

By this time you might feel suffocated under a “burden of statistics” Hold on! After all our intention is not to hurt you or mar your vacations. There is something to cheer about also. The Union territories are not only scenic and make a nice vacation but they are not heavy on your purse also. So Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands have not yet thought of burdening the tourists. They do not have a LT. One exception among the states is the vivacious Goa where good sense prevails and the tourists breathe easy without luxury tax.

The union Government must do something to cap the LT at an uniform rate at all the states. Till that time ignoring the one in fine print can….

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

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