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The roads less traveled in the western ghats of Karnataka


Karnataka is one of the diversified states in India. It has the evergreen forests, mountain ranges, drylands, agricultural lands, cosmopolitan cities and so on. The Western Ghats plays an important role in this state. Thirthalli is one small part of these massive ghats.

Thirthalli is a town located in the Shivamoga district of Karnataka, which is about 335kms from the state capital Bengaluru.

For someone like me, who is born and bought up in a city, I had always fancied visiting Thirthalli. Thanks to my curriculum which had chapters that described this town in great lengths.

And I never had the chance to visit Thirthalli until recently. It is just not about the nature surrounding this place that attracted me, it is also the Mythological stories surrounding it.

Though ours was a planned trip, we could hardly get any information about the tourist attraction in and around this town. We explored most of the places when we went there.

Just to make your life easy and shed some light on the unexplored gems I am writing this blog.

Mythological Significance

The Legend goes that once upon a time ago there lived a sage called Jamadagni, who was known for his short temper. For the reasons unknown to me he gets angry on his wife Renuka Devi and orders his son Parashurama to behead her. 

Being an obedient son Parashurama follows his fathers orders. He travels across the lengths and breaths of India washing off the blood stains on his axe with which he beheaded his mother. However, there is always a drop of blood left unwashed. Finally, he gets away with it when he washes his axe in the river Tunga which flows at Thirthahalli. 

Thirtha in native Kannada language means holy water, halli means village. And that is how the name Thirthalli came into existence. 

Places to visit in and around Thirthalli

Locals across Thirthalli were extremely friendly and they guided us to most of these places. They also narrated the stories associated with these places.

1. Rameshwara Temple

After Parashurama cleaned his axe, it is believed he decided to thank Lord Shiva and built a temple at the banks of river Tunga.

The temple was very quite and peaceful when we visited and the white noise from the river close by was emitting a lot a positive energy. 

I did feel something magical about this place.

It is right within the Thirthalli town.

Tunga river with lush green trees on its banks

2. Ambuthirtha

There is a mythological story behind this place as well. 

According to Ramayana, when Lord Rama was in exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, Sita feels thirsty and they will not be able to find water anywhere in the visiniity.

So Rama, fires an arrow (arrow is known as Ambu in native language) and water splashes from that point. 

And thus the name Ambuthirtha.

This is also the birth place of river Sharavathi. This river flows further to form the world famous Jog falls.

Ambuthirtha is about 15 kms from Thirthalli. There is a small temple dedicated to Lord Rama. The pond in front of the temple is always believed to have the same amount of water irrespective of the season.

Ambuthirtha is a small rama temple at the birth place of river sharavathi

3. Mrugavadhe

Yet again, according to mythology, Lord Rama killed demon Maaricha who was in the form of golden deer at this place. 

Mrugha means animal and vadhe means killing.

Situated about 20 kms from Thirthalli, there is a temple of Lord Mallikarjuna facing the river Tunga.

4. Chibbalagudde

On the banks of river Tunga there is a Vinayaka temple. You can find school of fish which are quite healthy.

Apparently, it is believed that a dip in this water can cure skin diseases.

School of fish at river tunga

5. Kamandala Ganapathi temple

This is the origin place of river Bramhi. Located at 30 kms from Thirthalli, this was one of the total off beat place in this trip.

It the surrounding was so quite and deserted that my folks started playing cricket πŸ˜›

Kamandala ganapati temple with trees in the background.

6. Tunga Bridge

This is one of the oldest bridge in Karnataka designed by world renonved engineer Sir M Vishwashwaraih. 

This bridge connects Thirthalli with Kuruvalli on the other side.

This bridge looks similar to Sydney’s Harbour bridge.

A bridge built over tunga river

7. Bheemanakatte

This is 10kms from Thirthalli on the way to Agumbe. There is a beautiful hanging bridge which give you a great photo opportunity.

Hanging bridge over river Tunga at Bheemanakatte

8. Kavaledurga Fort

I’m someone who always gets excited to visit places which as historical significance. So the minute I heard about this fort, there was no way I was going to miss it.

Located at about 18 kms from the town, this is a beautiful fort which dates back to 9th century.

This is also known as Bhuvanagiri. Fort was under the rule of Nayaka’s of Keladi.

We had to do a short trek to reach to the top of the fort, where there was a Srikantheswara temple.

The trek by itself was a beautiful experience.

Enroute to Kavaledurga fort we can see stone pathway with trees and mountains in our line of sight

Temple at the top of the fort, with clear sky on the top and brown ground in the front

9. Kuppali / Kavishaila

It is the birth place of Kannada’s rastra kavi (renowned poet) Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa aka Kuvempu. 

In his own words, Its the beauty of Kuppalli and western ghats that inspired him to write such wonderful poems and books.

His house has been converted into museum now. And Kavishaila is the place where it is believed that he sat and wrote all those literature marvels.

Poet Kuvempu's residence built in traditional malnad style with lawn in front of the house
Stone structures on a hilltop at Kavishaila

10. Kundadri Betta

This is a beautiful hill top right in the middle of dense rain forests of Karnataka.

There is a jain temple at the top of the hill which dates back to 17th century. I was told by one of the locals that the water in the pond in front of the temple is filled through out the year.

This is one of the best places to enjoy the sun rising above the western ghats.

Beautiful bule sky just before the sun rise as seen from Kundadri hills
Beautiful orange sky as we see the first rays of sun at Kundadri hills
White jain temple with round pond with green water at the top of Kundadri hills

11. Agumbe

I had always associated Agumbe with rainfalls. The amount of rainfall it receives in a year is so high that its called the Cherrapunji of the south.

The sunset that I witnessed here was one of its kind.

I have been told that Agumbe houses the largest number of King cobras in India.

Have you watched R K Narayan’s Malgudi days? It was filmed here at Agumbe. 

We were guests at Doddamane (Swami’s house from the TV show), the host Kasturi akka reminded me of my grandmother. The Kashaya that she served was so heavenly that I made it a point to drink it all the days that we stayed there.

12. Jogigundi falls

This falls is just about 3 kms from Agumbe. You have to walk about a kilometer or so deep into the woods to see the falls.

En route to the falls you will come across some massive trees, which creates beautiful canopy on the top, making the sun rays hardly reaching the ground.

During rainy season, the trek or the walk would be little challenging, however the view of the falls will be spectacular.

On the other hand, during non rainy seasons, you can reach the falls with much lesser efforts and you can even take a dip in the natural pool.

I have been at both the seasons and must say I totally fell in love with the falls when I went in rainy season.

White water gushing from the falls at Jogigundi falls

How to reach Thirthalli?

Nearest Airport is in Mangalore.

Nearest railway station is Anandapuram (though there are not many trains that connects to major cities. 

Shivamoga station would be the most practical one to take.

You can always take one of the numerous buses provided by KSRTC to Thirthalli directly.

Where to stay?

I’m recommending the below places based on my personal experience.

Home stays:

  1. Kolavara Heritage
  2. Gabadi River edge

Budget stay:

  1. Doddamane at Agumbe
  2. Royal Inn at Thirtahall.

Have you guys ever visited any of these above places? Let me know in the comments box below.

Also will be happy to see you on fb page at Intrepid Indian

Hanging bridge over Tunga river.

29 thoughts on “The roads less traveled in the western ghats of Karnataka

    1. These are kind of very offbeat places, not many people know about them. Let me know how you like it if u ever get a chance to visit.

  1. First time on your blog through the blogging strategy group. I have spent 12yrs in Karnataka with 7yrs in Bangalore and 5 in Mysore. I believed that I had explored most of Karnataka, Kerala and TN as my husband and I are avid travelers. But your post proved me wrong. Putting this on my bucket list next.

  2. I have NOT been able to travel much this year so I really appreciate this post because it makes me feel like I have traveled outside of my city to experience cultures that I am not used to! πŸ™‚

  3. Beautiful photographs! It looks like a beautiful place – a lovely combination of history, mythology and nature. I think I have heard of Jogigundi falls, the name sounds very familiar! It’s supposed to be very beautiful.

  4. You’re so right about Kavaledurga Fort. That is something you don’t want to miss. Several of my friends have mention Kavaledurga Fort and it’s a place to see for sure!

  5. Such interesting history behind the many parts of Thirthalli. Thanks for taking us along on a virtual tour of your journey there. It was beautiful!

  6. Not sure I’d like to go where the highest number of cobras exist. I wouldn’t mind catching that sunset though. πŸ™‚

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