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DEVARA KAADU- Image

Passing by the Bhagvathi Temple, (Virajpet, Kodagu) skirting along the edge tucked away in a corner spreading 9 acres, we wavered searching for a path to get in. Rarely has one entered these hallowed precincts, yet we looked for a tiny clearing and looked relieved to find one, among crunching leaves, there was a more than half a feet of dead leaves on the floor, my husband beckoned for the walking stick which he tapped intermittently for any wayward snake or other creepy crawlies. I followed looking down on the uneven floor and then I bumped into him as we came to a grinding halt, the clearing was not distant enough and looked for another path to move ahead. All along vines formed a curtain draped top to bottom, interweaving, snaking high up, and to part these or even break a twig is improper, we gingerly edged through the twines to find a not so clear path but at least a break through.

By now we had made considerable inroads and looked behind to see how much ground we had covered, the tunnelled path we walked and dense dark green wooded area was very daunting, I was breathing heavily was not comfortable at all, we stopped by an old tree, I whispered let’s not disturb the forest too much, take the pictures and lets beat a hasty retreat, I was heavily bitten on the neck and back and the itch left a red gash. We had entered into the realms of an authentic untouched forest, most revered by the Kodavas, not even the cows graze here, we had barely entered a distance inside the dense jungle floor and I was genuinely scared. We had stepped into the Devaad Kaad (in Kodava language), a forest meant just for the Gods.

Not much of wild life exists, the tigers, wild dogs, flying squirrels are extinct here, occasional sighting of wild boars are witnessed but then it’s the Kodavas favourite dish, I don’t think many prowl around, and walking this far into the Kaadu we were quite confident of no such untoward confrontation with  wild animals, but then what was so intimidating? Is it the myth and stories that float around these dark, eerie forest floors? The screen of lush all around vegetation is very appeasing, the crunching leaves below not so, I had my eyes peeled for any camouflaged snake, worse still scorpions from the jutting rocks, and then stepping on dead wood is as uncertain they just crumble being hollow with the weight of our heavy footsteps. Devara Kaadu is certainly a land of adventure, Indiana Jones and Mowgli would certainly be at home but by our beating the retreat, reaching sunlight drenched path was so reassuring and it’s not for the faint hearted.

We reached the Bhagvathi Temple, most villages in Coorg have a Devi, Badrakali Aiyyappa, Shiva Temple, venue for a lot of celebrations both annual and important religious functions, the Devara Kaadu forms the impressive backdrop, dark and looming, changing colours with the season, sometimes new leaves on the huge trees act like festoons, red, yellow, fluttering away in the gentle breeze as if celebrating the deep forest secrets. Meeting the head priest here was very enlightening, at first he didn’t seem convinced that we went in for a good 10-15 minutes, then he quizzed us, what is there for you to see, why?

Devara Kaadu 2-3 centuries ago was a formidable site to the temple, it was home to the original species of trees, wildlife, flora and fauna. Allocated to supply wood and any edible fruits that were taken from the fringes, the heart of the forest even today is untouched, unspoilt, and pristine, exactly what the original terrain that existed! Devara Kaadu was thus an integral part to the Temples, in any village the Kaadu exists because of the Temple, and who says conservation of forest began in the 21st century, the British meticulously maintained it, so impressed were they with the hundreds of original plant species, the Coorg Gazetteer says, the British counted nearly 300 varieties of vines alone!

Over the years, thick lush vegetation grew, and since no paths were cut through the jungle floor, vines grew all over just like cobwebs in any intact area, sunlight became hard to stream in keeping the forest floor moist and home to many insects and birds. But so also civilization and mankind multiplied maybe faster than the forest growth and there lies the eco systems biggest challenge to tame the wild, and encroachment of these sacred groves became an insidious phenomenon. To tame the hunger for land by man, the priests must have thought a novel way to stem it, superstition was always the outcome to curtail, and to forbid taking any peripheral land, as an average area of 6-7 acres of Devara Kaadu was always alluring.  It is believed that the gods hunt in these forests, ghosts and some even maintained spirits of great ancestors rest in the deep woods, so do not step into the Kaadu or you will be possessed!

Our village has two prominent Devara Kaadus, one in Karada near the Bhagvathi Temple, Kadanga(10 acres or little more) near the Arupatt Temple, a smaller Kaad near the Ishwara Temple Chelavara are a perfect conservation forests, home to many species of vines, wild palm trees, Incense tree, tree ferns and mainly jungle wood thrive here. The forest regenerates, thrives, and lives entirely as nature deems fits, the weak trees rot and fall for new growth creating sunlight and succour from the dark covers of tall overgrowths and much needed compost. The temple uses the dead wood as allowed for centuries, some of the bigger logs are used for the temple renovations for the roof or even furniture, hardly any fruiting trees except wild berries which the birds love, the heart of the forest still remains untouched, even the temple priests don’t venture deep in. During the Boluk Namme an annual ceremony in April, the entire village congregates, chicken is sacrificed at the edge of the forest, to appease the resident gods.

If we can take a leaf out of the Devaad Kaad, there is so much to learn, we can peep into original terrain, great insight into what the landscape must have been nearby the changing surroundings where farmland has been utilised for homes, hotels, and concrete structures have invaded the once thick forest. On the other hand it must have been so difficult living in these inhospitable jungle, to tame it was a challenge, the Kodavas made good use of the Peechekathi, and Vodekathi that was part of the traditional dress during their sojourn in the Kaadus. To preserve, conserve and to let generations to witness the trees grow older, the slice of Kodava land will always be a beacon to botanists and conservationist on the value of forests and the symbiotic relations that existed with mankind.

Devara Kaadu let the gods and spirits remain, may you always look after the village that surrounds you, we revere you, and will always protect you like you protect us.

Devara Kaadu- Fact File-

  • United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) assigns Coorg as the ‘grove capital of the world’. The whole idea is to preserve the tradition of Devara Kaadu in Coorg.
  • India’s first IG of Forests Sir Dietrich Brandis, influenced and mentored Gifford Pinchot, of Forest Service, recognised Devara Kaadus of Kodagu in 1868.
  • The district of Kodagu has approximately 346 ‘Devara Kaadu’s (sacred groves). The drop in the number of such groves has been cause for concern in recent times. 
  • The oldest Devara Kaadu of Kodagu is in Kolathode-Bygode en route to Hathur-Kaikeri in Virajpet taluk. 
  • The famous Igguthappa Temple in Napokul is 800 acres.

 

Text- Jyoti Shetty and Nala Ponnappa of Travel Log Writers

Photos- Ponnappa.

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KAAS – Image

 

I was indeed blessed when we decided to drive down scenic bends and uphill views of the Kaas plateau. Eversince I moved to Pune from Bangalore, the wealth and biodiversity of the Western Ghats, the hot spot for tourists from all over, always beckons me.  The drive to Kaas is 134 Km from Pune. Kaas is located in the Satara District of Maharashtra. Satara to Kaas is 24 Km amidst gentle hills and the most impressive views of deep gorges and valleys. My partner and I chanced upon this place, as it’s a bit unknown as compared to the great “Valley of the Flowers” in the Himalayas.

 

Our drive though languid was just right to breathe in the fresh air, the air an invigorating mix of green grass and the sweet, sweet scent of myriads of flowers, a heady cocktail set to give me a great high. My mind did most of the clicking than the camera, I just wanted to have the first impression etched within. The drive up to Kaas from Satara is gradual, hugging the hillside with a fascinating view of the townscape below but once you hit the summit you know the Kaas plateau is right there before your eyes and it’s infinite. Splashes of yellow and purple as hedges along the occasional dwellings along the drive finally throw away their pretences as the amazing openness of the endless fields of flowers opens up. Nature’s carpet, the colours of the rainbow and many others in between, spread ever so gently, takes one’s breath away. It humbles you.

 

The Kaas Valley in the Western Ghats just needs a spurt of rain and dew during post monsoons to get the great burst of colors, the flora and tiny flowers blossom in myriad shapes and sizes, and shades, thousands of visitors witness this flower show without knowing the botanical names or the local names. For nature lovers this small plot of the most fertile land is often referred to as the mini Valley of the Flowers! Looking at what nature had to unfold we were in two minds whether to stay on and leave the next day. A new Hotel, Nivant Hill Resort, midway up the Kaas Road was very tempting to stay on, but we wisely decided to return after a few days. Reason? The plateau takes on different hues according to the dominant flowers that usurp for more space! A veritable riot of colours.

 

The popular “Kaas Valley of Flowers“, blooming period commences as the monsoons season ends, for a very short time of 2 to 3 weeks, usually until the end of August. UNESCO is planning to give it a World Heritage status. Nearby are picturesque places like Kaas Lake, Bamnoli and Tapola. From Bamnoli to Tapola a short boat ride takes you through the Shivsagar Lake formed due to the Koyna dam. Vasota Fort lies near Tapola.

What is simply incredible is the wide carpet of yellow Bright Smithias commonly called Kavla locally, and just to contrast this carpet of yellow the purple hue is just side by side, these are Sky Blue Karvy and very Lavender looking Jambhali manjiri the local name for Pogostemon. Another aspect of colouring that astounds me is the contrasting of various other patches of flowers and they all grow in there side under the sun of Kaas Plateau. White tuberous Pipewort grows amidst a very common reference locally called Siteche aasave a purple very orchid looking plant. White and purple contrasts of different species are a common sight swaying in the wind. A sunflower species has a very apt local name Sontikli makes yellow so bright and when they are mixed with Linums another yellow flower, these bright yellow flowers in a bunch gives such an amazing effect under sunshine and the soft gentle wind swept plateau.

An interesting chat later with the owner of Nivant Hill Resort on the Kaas Road, Chandrasen Jadhav claims that the Kaas flower carpets changes its colours every 10-15 days, depending upon the dominant flowers during that particular time. Occasions of pink color lawns of Impatiens and white carpets of Eriocaulons were dominant. Last time of the year the same location was covered by the purple-blue colour flowers of Karvy, Strobilanthes sp this flower blooms every 7 years!  Chandrasen also sells a field guide of the Kaas flowers to all guests at the Coffee shop of his hotel, one can often see them excitedly exclaiming as they spot the flowers seen in the book.

Kaas Valley is a treasure trove with surprises and different canvases to unfold year after year. Some dominant flowering plants we watched over there were Utricularia, Eriocaulons, Impatiens, with Impatiens having the lions share. Utricularia is another interesting flower apparently these plants are carnivorous, they feed on small insects. At Kaas another insect eating plant named Drosera is rare. What we lacked when we went there was a guide who could have helped us identify these plants, it is a pity that like many who come there, the ignorance of knowing more about these natures’ wondrous plants would have helped people respect them and admire them more.

The Kaas Valley as it’s often called, has a narrow road dividing the plateau, during peak season rows of cars are often found snaking for miles, and the worse sight to see on these pristine landscape are excited tourists treating the valley like a plant nursery! Some are often seen trampling the path, crushing the seasons wonders under human flatfoot shoes, men, women, and children are seen pulling out plastic bags to fill in nature’s bounty. I took the job of warden seriously, did rave and rant at a few for pulling at the plants mercilessly, I explained the futility of planting these wonders in pots as they would simply wither away. And for those who were cutting the flowers, hoping to adorn their vases back home, I came upon as a furious mother nature protecting her children. That was enough to dissuade them.

There are boards big and small proclaiming “Appeal to Public” in Hindi-Marathi and English, very explicit rules to accept the moral responsibility to protect the environment at Kaas Plateau. Many in bold announcements that proclaim Kaas as a reserved forest, enjoy the beauty of nature without causing harm to it, do not pluck flowers, do not uproot the flora it will affect the biodiversity, do not carry plastic bags, do not eat food in forest areas, but sadly we Indians follow rules in other countries while in our motherland rules are sadly meant to be broken!

There is a poignant Japanese haiku that goes thus: ‘Even though it is written on the sign, do not pluck the flowers, it is useless against the wind that cannot read.’ The winds along the Kaas Plateau however are far kinder to these exquisite flowers perhaps knowing well that these seasonal spread of colours are so ephemeral. So evanescent.  Written by Jyoti Shetty and Nala Ponnappa= sketches by PonnappaImage

bison crossing riverWhen one goes off the beaten tracks of a Safari to see the original inhabitants of Tanzania, it’s like going back in time, it’s like finding that missing link. Africa being the cradle of civilization, that majestic land of endless horizons, where each setting sun merits its own painting, simply has no parallels. Traders, explorers, hunters, for short periods of time along with the Maasai have blessed this land with a unique character of its own. It is the land of adventure, raw, savage and yet surprisingly sedate. In this land of the Kikuyu, Hadzabe, Datoga tribes the earth was torn apart by catastrophic forces creating the Great Rift Valley. It is the only place in the world where elephants drink off springs fed by snows on the very equator. Here lies the source of the mighty Nile, which has fascinated the world since centuries, a fascination which perhaps led to the colonization of the continent herself. One presumes, explorations precede occupation and though Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are independent today, they have retained the grandeur and romance of their colonial past. Africa especially has mastered the art of taking you back in time and keeping you there, all with present day luxuries. If you need to be amongst pristine wilderness, yet be pampered and spoilt then come to Africa.

follow this TravelLog Planners on facebook- in detail once published .

9 days Tanzania- AUG-SEPT 225

Day 1:On arrival at Arusha or JRO you’ll be met by Wild Planet(T)
Safaris representative (Guide)who will brief you about your
itinerary. Overnight at Planet lodge.

Day 2:After breakfast drive through Arusha  Town into open grass
plains of Southern Maasailand into Tarangire National Park,
The fifth Largest park derives its name from Tarangire river
which flows through the park to provide the only permanent
supply of water for game in the area. The Park is at its best
during the dry season (July to October) when the  animals
leave the harsh, denuded  plains to congregate along the
river.This behaviour caused the park to become known as a
‘retreat house’ for wildlife.
On entering the Park the first thing to catch the eye are the
vast numbers of baobab trees seen everywhere.Rising above the
long grass of the gently rolling countryside, they provide
shade for the animals that feed beneath them.After lunch stop
continue with game viewing. Dinner and overnight at Tarangire Sopa Lodge

Day 3:Further game viewing this morning, there is possibility of
seeing the great silale swamp with its shores filled with
exotic birds and several lion prides, the heavy woods in the
park is perfect habitat for leopard, and in Tarangire they
are among the largest found on the circuit. Picnic lunch in
the Park and in the afternoon drive to Karatu dinner and overnight at Kudu lodge
.

Day 4:Dawn game drive at Ngorongoro Crater, you’ll make a quick
descent and once on the floor you’ll understand why
many writers have described it as a “Garden of Eden”. Within
the Crater is a surprising variety of game, all easily
accessible to the tourist. Unconcerned prides of lions roll
under wheels of landcruisers with their excited observers,
nonchalantly posing for photographs. Large herds of
Wildebeest roam around the crater walls, a rhino jerks up its
head to gaze in blind irritation at an intruding vehicle, an
ostrich strides among herds of zebra and gazelle,while pair
of crowned cranes feeds near a pool of water, Elephant and
Buffalo seek the denser vegetation, Spotted hyena and
jackals rest in the shade of mounds or dens.Enjoy your lunch
at Ngoitoktok picnic site where kites wait to scavenge
titbits, they even go so far to snatch food from picnikers
hands if given a chance, care should therefore be taken not
to wave food about. Later in the afternoon drive to Ndutu Safari Lodge
for dinner and overnight.
Day 5:After breakfast head out through great plains though its dry
at this time of the year but still few animal species survive
around here, giraffes, hippos, Elephants, gazelle and some
cats can also be seen here, after lunch proceed to central
Serengeti for dinner and overnight at Serengeti Savanna Tented Camp
Day6 & 7:This day is spend exploring this magnificent wilderness,
you’ll see abundant game on the plains, in the woodlands and
Kopjes and possibly near the great rivers like Grumeti.The
Serengeti is vast place many safaris link themselves to a
certain lodge and spend only a few  hours outside it search
ing for game , but we’ve dedicate to find you the optimum
game viewing, the greatest collection of animals on earth!
Your guide will have the most current information and he may
suggest you to go out all day.And then again you might not
have to as large number of animals may be found right out
side your door step! You could spend  a month in the
Serengeti and not see it all.But we are convinced after this
brief introduction you’ll understand why “Serengeti Shall
not Die” In our best effort to get you as close to the great
herds as possible.Tonight you’ll either lodge at
Lobo Wildlife lodge or at one of the tented camp  around the northern Serengeti

Day 8:After breakfast game drive en-route across central Serengeti then
Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the town of Karatu again for your overnight at
Kudu Lodge or Bouganvilier Safari Lodge.

Day 9:After breakfast head out for shopping on the way to the Airport or you will
also have option of visiting Lake Manyara on this day for those who will be
having evening flight back home!
Text Photos- Jyoti Shetty and Nala Ponnappa   ****

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” When you travel, you have lot of stories to tell” this has been a great source of inspiration and made Ponnappa and me to document our travelogue as first hand experiences. There are many places we wish to go and Travel log it,  thats why we started wheelsundermyfeet, and that is what we deeply wish for. Travel is our passion and to write about it is our objective, to reach out to the public is another, and write something not glossed over or one sided. Hope you will find it useful and we shall link it to some of our published works for your convenience. Wish us that we have wheels to write more interesting locations and will keep you posted. This is just an introduction to the name of our blog and both of us will leave a few imprints on our travels regurlarly.

Happy Travel Days ahead.

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