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Jungle mein not Mangal but Veerappan!
Dec 30, 2003 11:07 AM 20120 Views
(Updated Dec 30, 2003 02:36 PM)

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I am back with one of my travel stories again. This time for a change, I went into deep forests in the remote corners of South India. You probably are saying ‘well, all junglees do belong there, so what’s new?’ But carrying half pahari genes from paternal side, I also enjoy my sojourns on hilly terrains, sloped mountains or steep ghats. And one such beautiful place of Forest-Mountain combination is Male Mahadeshwara Hills (commonly referred as MM Hills) which I visited recently.


~Basic Info~


MM Hills is actually a small town situated in the valley between seven surrounding hills. It’s about 142 km from Mysore city in Karnataka and about 30 km from Mettur in Tamil Nadu. Though not well known tourist site, MM Hills is definitely popular as a pilgrim center. The main attraction is the shrine of Lord Male Mahadeshwara where the devotees throng in like swarm of bees during the Hindu auspicious days. Around this temple town, all along the slopes of different jungles on mountains, are little settlements called Podus comprising of 8-10 tribal homes per hamlet. The Soligas are the native tribe of the region and mainly dependent on agriculture and non-timber forest produces for livelihood. The vegetation is densely covered forest ranging from evergreen trees to deciduous shrubby growths. These are the very forests ill famous for housing the notorious forest brigand, Veerappan. And in such a thrilling location, our office has established one of its Field Stations, which I visited a few days ago.


~Do you have it in you?~


No, that’s not ‘Join Army’ slogan but as you can see, MM Hills is not for all and sundry kind of visitors. There are hardly any places of historical importance/ attractions/ monuments on these hills. Though connected well by road, its still not a sought after tourist destination. So the kinds of people (other than the devotees) that visit this place are either:


a. Bored stiff from the regular mechanical humdrums of the city life and wanting that desperate break in absolutely calm peaceful natural environments


b. Trekkers, Nature admirers, Wildlife fans/ photographers, Ornithologists, Insect lovers, Tribal life interested, Don’t-mind-being-Tarzans etc.


c. On official duty like me.. who wont let the fear of tigers, wild elephants or even Veerappan to come in the way of their dedicated duty while gallantly carrying out their Mission Impossible assignment to the pinnacle of its success even in the oddest of the situations and.. ok, I shall stop but you get the drift, don’t you?


So you are one of the above kinds and hell bent upon visiting after all? Let’s see what is in store for you then.


~Travel~


Ideally you should leave Bangalore the previous evening so that you get to spend a whole day on the mountains. Best mode of transportation is your own vehicle, a good Sumo/ Jeep. Even then, it takes six grueling hours of journey through winding curves, steep slopes, thick forests and several checkposts. Just cross your fingers that your vehicle won’t end up with a puncture in the middle of deep woods unlike ours. There are also regular bus services operated from Bangalore and Mysore.


Several small places keep you interested on the way.. Shivansamudra Cross (which leads to a famous waterfall Gaganchukki further), Cauvery bridge, Kamagere (from where Veerappan had abducted Nagappa), Singanallore (native village of cine idol Dr.Rajkumar.. which was instrumental giving birth to a great debate amongst our team members “whether Dr. Raj was actually a Tamilian?”) and so on. The nearest town is the taluk of Kollegal about 80 km far and from there upon begins your uphill journey along a string of small villages, and near Kaudalli you enter into the Kaudalli Range of Forests.


Short Aside: It is believed that if you come across a fox, it brings you luck. However, I would say, if you are in luck then you will chance upon not only fox but wild hare, deer, bison, jackal etc. and in extremely lucky cases wild elephants! (Well, I was ‘almost’ extremely lucky coz though we missed out on the elephants by a minute’s gap, we could still see fresh elephant dung all along).


~Accommodation~


Once you reach the town of MM Hills, you can check into any of the free dormitories, traveler’s bungalows or private guesthouses. Don’t carry the impressions of your Taj, Oberoi luxuries here because the best of the VIP suites costs you only Rs.200/- per night. But these modest places are mostly clean, equipped with basic necessities and serve the purpose. Food can be a real problem if you are too fussy. But the guesthouse canteens, small teashops and rural inns do churn out decent stuff to appease your tummy without actually upsetting it.


~Places of interests~


First of all, go and offer your reverence to Lord Male Mahadeshwara (Male = Mountain, Maha = Big, Eshwar = God), supposedly a reincarnation of Lord Shiva. The temple is a lovely ancient form without much artistic importance. The place is clean, well maintained and pooja, prasad, darshan etc. are highly systematized. There upon, you can set out on a jungle adventure all by yourself. Just make sure to memorize your way so that you won’t get lost in deep woods while returning. And don’t you worry least about Veerappan. For all you know, he is visiting Bangalore to check out his possibilities for an election ticket. But yes, don’t forget your camera!


Enjoy your tryst with greenery, romance the nature, rendezvous with trees & shrubs, tease the winds, flirt with flowers, coo with the birds, sigh for the wild life and simply fall in love with the monkeys (ok, you can ignore that last bit). Amidst all this if you bump into some unidentified species either busy counting grass roots or measuring some lantana fences or conducting community meetings under guava trees, then in all probabilities, it is someone you know from MS (ok, you can ignore this bit also.. but I still maintain that these are Mission Impossible tasks).


When tired of all the roaming, enjoy a short nap under some big tree or simply meditate. Alternatively, you can trek along the podus to learn about the interesting lifestyles of tribal people (and laugh within at the idiocy of directors for their weird depictions in the movies). FYI, all the tribals here are fully clothed without outrageous ornaments or mannerism, living like other normal people, culturally very rich and with an interesting history and lifestyle. Munch something they might offer and call it a day after watching the lovely sunset to return back to your guesthouse.


If you left shortly thereafter, you should be back in Bangalore by late night, to tuck away in warm bed with nice memories to turn pages later on.


So.. are you game for a date with Nature?


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