Often quoted and sometimes debated in several contexts, the saying ‘the Journey matters more than the Destination’ is definitely a popular one when it comes to road trips. And when the road trip is between Bangalore and Coorg via Mysore, there is no denying the fact that the journey is as exciting as the destination. A journey of about 250 km with several interesting towns and villages on the way, the drive between Bangalore and Coorg is sure to leave you mesmerized by just not its scenic landscapes but also by unique experiences that span art, culture, native craft, wildlife and religion.
Given Bangalore’s unpredictable traffic which can be rather notorious at times, it is always recommended to start early to make the most of your trip. Dusty roads, elevated noise and pollution levels slowly give way to quieter stretches and some greenery as you leave the main city and reach Kengeri and Kumbalgodu. Glimpses of larger patches of fields and rustic scenes are more frequent as you enter the industrial town of Bidadi. Stopping by for a sumptuous breakfast of Thatte idli, a local speciality at any of the little cafes by the road is always a great idea before you move en route to the multi-faceted town of Ramanagara.
Boulders, Rocky hills and Sholay
Known initially as Shamserabad during the heydays of Tipu Sultan and then as Closepet (after Sir Barry Close) during the British Raj, Ramanagara’s landscape is replete with lush greenery that is interspersed between massive granite boulders. In fact, this picturesque locale was the place where the legendary Hindi film Sholay was shot way back in 1975. The boulders, which form quite a fascinating backdrop to the entire town are a favourite with adventure junkies and nature enthusiasts. A climbing and trekking paradise, it is a popular weekend destination from Bangalore.
Ramadevara Betta and Vulture Sanctuary
Ramanagara is also home to the famous Ramadevara betta (or Lord Rama’s hill). Accessible by a climb of about 400 steps, the hill houses a temple on the top dedicated to Lord Rama. This temple is ancient and legend has it that it was built by the monkey God Sugriva himself and hence is considered religiously very significant. A large perennial stream called “Sita pond” is present on top as well. The views from the top of the hill are simply stunning and one can get a good view of the surrounding verdant paradise from here.
Nestled within Ramadevara Betta is India’s only vulture sanctuary called the Ramadevara Betta Vulture Sanctuary. Vultures are critically endangered in India with most of them having been wiped out after they fed on carcasses of cattle that were injected with diclofenac. The latter is a cost-effective painkiller and an anti-inflammatory drug that was administrated on cattle. The sanctuary in Ramanagara now houses about 5-6 long-billed vultures which are almost extinct. The Egyptian vultures (also called white scavengers) are another species that is found here.
Janapada Loka Folk Arts Museum
If you are a fan of rural art and craft, the folk arts museum in Ramanagara must be on your list. Dedicated to Karnataka folk culture, this museum founded by H L Nage Gowda is located right on the Bangalore-Mysore highway. The majestic blue gate called “Mahadwara” bearing large murals is unmissable and a perfect prelude to the treasure trove of artefacts inside the museum. With over 5000 artefacts, the collections at the museum include rare tools, photographs, masks, models and musical instruments all related to rural life in the state.
The complex is divided into several sections like the Lokamatha Mandira that displays several kinds of agricultural tools, cooking vessels, kitchen gadgets and even various kinds of cattle bells. While Chitra kuteera has a collection of rare pictures pertaining to rural festivals, native music and dance, the Loka Mahal has life size displays of Yakshagana artists. There are also models of Coorgi aka Kodava couples, masks and puppets like Thogalu Bombe (leather puppetry) all of which are native crafts of the state. There is an open-air museum, library as well as a replica of a large traditional village house (Doddamane).
Sericulture and gastronomic treats
Ramanagara is famous for its silk and has been associated with sericulture since time immemorial. The town is home to one of the largest silk cocoon markets in Asia, the Government cocoon market. It is here that buyers and sellers of the silkworm cocoon converge and tonnes of cocoons are traded each day. The government ensures fair prices to both parties and advocates ethical trade practices. You can visit a number of small-scale silk manufacturing units when you drive into the town.
When in the town, treat yourself to some authentic South Indian specialities like kotte kadabu (idlis steamed in cones of screw pine leaves), neer dosa, ragi dosa etc at the Janapada Loka restaurant which is adjacent to the folk museum. Do not forget to parcel in some mouth-watering Mysore Pak from Janardhan hotel to nibble into as you proceed on your journey ahead!