Kaveri or Cauvery as the British spell it, is the life-sustaining river of two major South Indian states. These days we hear Kaveri only with reference to the dispute over its waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. We hardly stop to think about the journey of the river. Kaveri river originates at Talakaveri (also called Tala Kaveri) in Brahmagiri Hills of the Western Ghats, less than 100 km from the Arabian Sea to its west.
It decides to meander along and travel eastwards and merge with the sea at the Bay of Bengal. Along the way creating natural beauties like Shivanasamudra Falls and Hogenakkal Falls, several Dams built including the famous KRS Dam in Mysore. Wonder what the Kaveri river was thinking when it chose that route. It chooses to travel 760 km instead of just about 100 km to meet the sea. Was it aware of the dire need that most of south India would have of its waters in the future? Did it have a tiff with the western seas and refused to merge with it.
If this is not quirky enough, listen to this – Talakaveri is that spot where the Kaveri river originates from the top or slopes of Brahmagiri hill. You wonder how the water makes its way to a hilltop before emerging out of the womb of the earth. This is celebrated in Tula month.
Tula Sankramana is a festival that celebrates the origin of the Kaveri River. On this day in October, usually 17th Oct, there is an upsurge in the water of the Kaveri Tank. Some people say it comes like a fountain. I am sure it must be a sight to witness.
Pilgrims from around Coorg come to witness this. A dip in the holy tank is special on this day. People also take some water from the tank home to purify their homes.
Talakaveri Origin & Legends of Kaveri River
Story of Talakaveri
It is said that when Shiva and Parvati were getting married at Kailash Parvat, everyone went there to witness the wedding. As a result, the earth started tilting there. So, Agastya Rishi was sent to the South to maintain the balance of the earth. He was reluctant, and said, where will he get Holy Tirtha or Holy water for his daily rituals. Shiva filled the holy water in his Kamandal and said – here take it with you and go. So, Agastya Muni came down south. He sat on the Brahmgiri hill to meditate with his Kamandal carrying the holy tirtha.
In the parallel universe, Indra had to hide in a lotus stalk and needed some Holy Tirtha to get back his form and kingdom. Closest Tirtha was in Agastya Muni’s Kamandal. When Indra prayed to Ganesha for help, Ganesha took the form of a crow and sat on Agastya’s Kamandal. When he tried to shoo away the crow, Kamandal tripped and the water flowed. Agastya chased the crow till it took the form of a small boy and the Ganesha. In another story from Skanda Puran, Kaveri is the river incarnation of Lopamudra, the foster daughter of Rishi Kaver. She was married to Agastya Rishi.
Visiting Talakaveri from Madikeri
It is about 45 km east of Madikeri in Coorg. It is a perfect half-day trip from Madikeri city or wherever you are staying in Coorg. We drove there one morning during our Coorg Coffee Plantation Stay. The drive was pleasant through the quaint villages of hills of Coorg.
We passed by temples like Bhagamandala that is located on the way.
At the entrance is a big arch leading to steps that lead to the Talakaveri tank. If you stand at the valley end of the arch, you see the vast green valley with layers of hills in different shades of green. It is a beautiful landscape of lush green western ghats. I only wish I had visited in the early morning or late evening. In the mid-noon sun, it was impossible to stand there, even with the soothing green in front.
We washed our feet at the shallow water tunnel below the arch and started climbing the stairs. The stairs look absolutely new, but whoever thought of stone for this high heat region needs to stand on it for some time. We almost ran to the temple to avoid getting our feet burnt. You have to take off your shoes before the arch, and no, you can not even wear the socks.
When we reached the temple tank it was a lovely sight. The small rectangular tank, the size of a small swimming pool. The tank did have water in March contrary to what everyone told us. A small Kaveriamma temple is on one edge of the pond. Kaveriamma temple has the same image of Kaveri in a standing position emptying the pot in front of her. A priest was performing Puja at the temple. Some people stood in the pond and that gave me an idea of how deep the pond is.
We were told not to put feet in the tank as it is a holy tank. You can go inside and take a dip, but not touch it with your feet. It is the holiest of places of the Coorg region and it must be respected. After saying a silent prayer, we headed to the temples that are still further up from the tank.
Agastheeswara & Ganesha Temples
There are small but very beautiful temples. One of them is called Agastheeswara and was built by Agastya Muni. The other one is dedicated to Ganesha to commemorate his role in bringing Kaveri here. We spent some time there and felt a sense of peace that comes from places that have been worshipped for a long time.
Very close by is the peak of Brahmagiri hills. There are steps to go to the top. I am sure the view of surrounding valleys is beautiful from there. There are about 350 steps that you have to take to reach the top. Since we were there in the middle of the day, we did not even think of going there.
Later I noticed that no matter where you are, you would find an image of Kaveri in Coorg. She is the presiding deity of the region. She is usually in a standing position with an open pot in her hand, as if giving the boon of water to the people. We found her at Talakaveri which her home, then at viewpoints, at Bamboo Forest at Nisargadham, in museums, and just about everywhere.
On our way back we stopped at the beautiful temple at Bhagamandala town. It is famous for the Bhagandeshwara temple built in typical Kerala style with double slanting roofs.
A board outside the temple tells us that temple is named after Bhaganda Rishi who installed a Shivalingas here for his Tapasya. He was a worshipper of Skanda and named the region after him calling it Skanda Kshetra. People also called is Bhaganda Kshetra.
The temple has received patronage from all kings of the region. The present structure was built by King Doddaveerarajendra in the late 18th CE. There are 4 small temples inside the intricately carved temple structure. There are stories on temple pillars in stone. A pillared corridor runs around the peripheral wall of the temple. There are temples dedicated to Shiva, Shakti, Skanda, and Vishnu. Some of the walls indicate old paintings too.
Do not miss the carved ceilings in wood that tell stories of Indian scriptures.
Bhagamandala Triveni Sangam
The Bhagamandala Triveni Sangam is the confluence of three rivers – Kaveri, Kannige, and Sujyothi. This confluence is located bang opposite the Bhagandeswara temple. Of these, Sujyothi is supposed to be a mythical river just like Saraswati is supposed to be at Prayag.
This is a lovely site. You can see two rivers flowing peacefully and merging together into a single identity. There are small bridges on top of both the rivers where you can go and admire the Triveni Sangam from various angles. The river here is full of turtles and fishes.
There are small temples surrounding the Sangam. I saw the Shivalinga and Nandi on the banks and again Naga figures under the trees everywhere.
- Ideally, go early morning while it is still cool to climb the Brahmgiri hill as well as the steps of this temple.
- There are buses that ply from Madikeri to this place. We took a taxi as we wanted to cover many more spots along with it.
- To do all the three spots, including a hike to Brahmgiri Hill at leisure, you need a full day.