Susheela Nair, Bangalore
When rain soaks the earth, Karnataka springs to life. A myriad waterfalls burst into action, hurtling down hilly tracts, shattering the silence of the forests. And the best time to view this torrent of sparkling waterfalls is the thundery monsoon.
Brace yourself for a wet and wild holiday.
The Cauvery river flowing across Karnataka abounds in wondrous waterfalls, inspiring poets with their magic. Not all falls are famous. There are many hidden beauties that appear only during the rainy season especially in hilly terrain. This bounteous flow of water makes even small falls look great.
The districts of Shimoga, Kodagu, Chikmagalur and Uttara Kannada have a rich mosaic of waterfalls since dozens of rivers originate from the Western Ghats.
Uttara Kannada district with 18 waterfalls is aptly named the land of waterfalls. West-flowing rivers gush through dense forests in its coastal region breaking into streams that meander over hilly tracts to end in a series of dramatic, plunging waterfalls.
The Unchalli Falls or Lushington Falls amidst the dense jungles of Uttara Kannada district are formed when the river Aghanashini falls down a rugged valley from a height of 116 metres with a thunderous deafening roar. The falls are popularly called ‘Keppa Joga’ in local language.
Tucked in the midst of thick forests close to Yellapur, Sathodi Falls and Lalguli Falls are a stunning sight. Sathodi is known as the ‘mini Niagara Falls’ of Uttara Kannada district. You have to climb over hillocks and hack through dense foliage to reach the edge of the falls. Don’t miss the mesmerizing Magod Falls formed by the Bedthi river, 3 km from Magod village near Yellapur. The Bedthi river plunges 180 metres down a rocky valley in three leaps before landing in a stony ravine.
The picturesque hill station of Kemmangundi is blessed with silvery cascades like the Kalhatti Falls where water gushes down 122 metres from Chandra Drona Hill over the top of a temple built into a narrow gap between the rocks. The sprightly Hebbe Falls cascades from a height of 250 ft in two stages to form the Dodda Hebbe (Big Falls) and the Chikka Hebbe (Small Falls). The pool formed by the falls is said to be infused with herbs, making a dip into these waters therapeutic. Deep inside the Kudremukh forest are the Hanuman Gundi Falls, which are best visited after the monsoon.
The most renowned Karnataka waterfalls are the Jog Falls of the Sharavathi river. Located on the border of Shimoga and Uttara Kannada districts, the wild waters of the Sharavathi hurtle down a dark precipice of 810 ft. in four distinct cascades known locally as Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket – to create the fifth highest cataract in Asia. The beauty of the Jog Falls is enhanced after the rain when the environment around is lush and the 810 ft. drop is a raging torrent. Sometimes thick mists in the valley hinder visibility. When the sluice gates of the Linganmakki Dam upstream are closed, it is possible to walk to the bottom of the gorge to experience the invigorating sting of its spray. The peaceful and pristine environs of the Jog Falls and the hamlet of Kargal close by are a popular destination for film locations.
South Karnataka abounds in innumerable waterfalls along the river Cauvery and her tributaries. The Abbey Falls, (Abbi in Kannada means falls) set amidst a private coffee and spice plantation near Madikeri is significant. A winding, cobbled path and tall trees entwined with pepper vines lead to the falls which gracefully cascade their way down steps to join the Cauvery.
Nestling just outside the Rajiv Gandhi National Park are the Iruppu Falls. Originating in the Brahmagiri Range, the falls plunge 170 ft. in two distinct stages and flow as Lakshmana Theertha (sacred river of Lakshmana).The incessant music of the falls and the silence of the adjacent densely wooded forest are spell- binding.
Around 65 km east of Mysore in Mandya district is the island of Shivasamudram which abounds in scenic splendour. It is encircled by two branches of the Cauvery which plummet from a height of 75 metres into a deep, rocky gorge with a deafening roar to form two picturesque falls, Barachukki and Gaganachukki. When the Cauvery is in spate, watching the river crash into a cloud of foaming spray can be a thrilling experience.
An interesting feature is that the visitor can savour the beauty of the waterfalls unhindered by the presence of a power station since it is located downstream, away from the falls. A commendable example of man’s co-existence with nature! Harnessing the natural falls and the speed of its waters, Asia’s first hydro-electric project was established in 1902 at the behest of Sir M. Visvesvaraya, engineer-cum-statesman from Mysore to feed power to the former Kolar Gold Fields.
These falls are worth a day trip during the monsoon when they are at their impressive best. You can see the water cascade over a wide area in a series of leaps. You can also trek to the bottom of the Barachukki Falls, take a dip in the deep pool formed by the falls or go on a coracle ride down the Cauvery. Equally impressive are the Balamuri Falls, shaped like a horseshoe, in Mandya district.
Located on the outskirts of Bangalore, the Pearl Valley is formed by thin jets of water hurtling down from a height of 90 metres. The sun reflects on this spray making the water look like drops of pearls. Locally the streams are called Muthyala Madu (small, pearly water body). Overlooking these falls is a tiny shrine dedicated to Shiva, adding a religious aura to the place.
Equally appealing are the Chunchi Falls located 100 km south of Bangalore. Here, the Arkavathy river plunges down a yawning chasm before creating a glorious spectacle of cascading water and flying spray. Further down, the river joins the Cauvery at Sangama. The lush countryside, the roar of gushing water and a stunning view combine to make this an ideal picnic spot.
Travel Tips: Since most of the falls are located in remote areas, accommodation and eateries are woefully lacking. Do ensure you carry snacks and water. The best time to visit these falls is during the monsoon or immediately after the monsoon (July to December).