Coorg, Medikeri, Mercara
Coorg, Kudagu or Kodagu as this region is called nestles in the western Ghats of south west Karnataka. It is about 1000 meters above the sea level and the verdant plantations and gently sloping grassy plains have earned it the sobriquet - the Scotland of the East.
Unlike other hill stations atop the western Ghats, Mercara is quiet and less commercialized. It has a long history again unlike others. It also boasts of the origin of the river Kaveri - South India's life line in the nearby Talakaveri.
You can see a panoramic influence of all the communities of the south in this land - the Tamil through the ancient Cholas, the Kerala owing to its proximity (100 km away is Cannanore),Tulu from the Daskhina Karnataka and the Konkani from Mangalore. The natives - Kodava are of distinct origin and have unique styles - men wearing ceremonial wrap around robe like attire and the women wear saree in a distinctive manner.
The Kodava men have martial moorings and the Indian Army has many decorated soldiers from this region. Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa (also known as Kipper) was one of the celebrated soldiers from Coorg. He was instrumental in the integration of the modern Indian Army and his meritorious service has earned him many accolades including the 'Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit' by the US President Truman.
Mercara is about 120 km from Mysore and the roads were black topped at the time of my visit. You will not find any steep hair pin bends like you do in Nilgiris. The gradient is almost always gentle and the terrain poses no serious threat to the motorists. The climate is warm during the summer and mildly chill during the winter. As is usual, the west coast gets plentiful rains during the monsoon.
Brief History of Coorg:
Mercara, or Madikeri as is commonly known by the local populace is the headquarters of Coorg (Kodagu) district. It was founded by a prince - Mudduraja of Haleri dynasty in 1681 AD. It owes its name to him as Muddurajanakeri which became Muddurakayray which in time became Madikeri for the locals whilst the British called this province as Mercara.
Mudduraja built a mud fort and a palace inside the fort in the last quarter of the 17th century. The fort was eventually rebuilt in granite by Tippu Sultan who named the site as Jaffarabad. In 1790, Doddaveer Rajendra took control of the fort which changed hands to the British who added to the fort in 1834.
There are 6 circular bastions at the angles and the entrance on the east is very intricate and circuitous. You will find 2 life size masonry elephants in the north east corner at the entrance. At the southeast corner is a church built in 1855 which houses an archeological museum. The palace was renovated by Lingarajendra Woddeyar II in 1812-1814 which houses some government offices now.
The history of Coorg is a checkered one, changing hands through many dynasties and kingdoms - from the Cholas who ruled from the Tamil region of Tanjore to the eventual annexation to the British East India company in 1834. After the independence, Coorg province was made into a state in 1950 and in 1956 it was made part of the Mysore state - the present Karnataka state.
Sri Omkareshwara Temple:
This Shiva temple was constructed in 1820 by Vira Raja, the king, who took features of Gothic architecture and traditional Islamic dome in the construction of this temple. It has vast cavernous storage area below the temple which probably also contained an underground passage to his palace.
From a promontory overlooking the valleys of the western ghats, the Kings of this region looked into the distant lands - Mysore and beyond when they needed some quiet moments (they must have needed this in plenty as it was a troubled time). The seat was set in a lush garden with flowers of all hue. The roses must have been one of the favorite flowers of the Royalty as can be seen from the multitude of them here and elsewhere.