Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Golden Temple in Coorg

As you drive from Mysore to Madikeri, you pass by a small town called Kushalnagar next to which there is a large Tibetan settlement - Bylakuppe. Tibetans resettled here in 1961 on land given to them by the central government. An archway appearing on the left of the state highway and a small signboard are all you will see and its easiliy missed. But don't miss it if you are planning a trip to Coorg.

Go through the archway and there is an immediate and distinct transformation - the grass is literally greener on the other side. Gently rolling hills and vales, rolling paddy fields dotted with other cash crops, colourful prayer flags festooned over the entire vista and you really feel like like you've been transported through a magical portal into Tibet.

Bylakuppe houses the second largest Tibetan population in India after Dharamsala and if you like their cuisine and their crafts, this is a great place to go. The most popular destination for tourists is the Namdroling Monastery which has their Golden Temple.

The monastery is situated on a large campus and has many temples and shrines. The interiors are covered with huge wall paintings and large golden figures of buddhist saints. In one corner this small cottage-like structure caught my eye and I asked a shy young monk about it. I was told it houses some sacred relics and is kept locked but is one of the holiest spots in the campus.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Gowri Nivas - A home in Madikeri

I'm just back from a delightful and relaxing holiday in Coorg. As I wade through the piled up work I thought I'd better put down some nice memories before the stress of city living swallows me up completely.

After much pondering and googling we chose to stay at a house called Gowri Nivas which has 3 rooms on offer as a homestay. Looking back, I think we chose really well. The family that runs this cosy place are warm and welcoming hosts. Our rooms were in a cottage beside the main house and sitting on the verandah of our cottage the view towards the main house is the sketch you see above.

Gowri Nivas is a far more personal experience than anything you can get at a fancy hotel. For meals we walked up to the main house and chatted with our hosts. We felt a part of the family really, and yet, the rooms are beautifully done and every comfort attended to.

Another reason for choosing this place was because it was in Madikeri and would allow for leisurely walks exploring the town. Five minutes away is the Raja's Seat - a historical site where the king of Coorg used to watch the sunset. The spot really has fantastic views across the valley and I managed a quick colour sketch on a clear afternoon.

Another five minutes and you reach the city centre where, tucked behind the town hall is a cosy restaurant come coffee house called The Raintree. Decent food and a fantastic variety of coffee kept us going back there several times. The view out of the Raintree window encapsulates the general view you get all over the town - green slopes dotted with tiled roofs. Lot of concrete structures creeping up but at the moment the tiles still dominate - not sure for how long though.

Madikeri has a small fort at the centre of the town which is in a similar state of repair to the one here, or maybe slightly worse... if thats possible. As soon as you enter there's a church which houses the government museum! Display cases and panels are everywhere including the altar. The floor which might even have old memorial stones, is covered in a hideously patterned linoleum tile. After a quick walk around I couldn't stand it and was about to leave when the view going out the church door looked really interesting!
I went back after finishing the sketch to ask the lady inside what the name of the Church was... and she didn't know.