The Kodagu District of Karnataka is a famous destination for uphill trekking, bird watching, and scenic photography. Its Brahmagiri Hills region is an accessible section of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri), which is a biodiversity hotspot known also as the Benevolent Mountains, and the Great Escarpment of India. The hills cover areas under the jurisdiction of Kodagu District in Karnataka and Wayanad District of Kerala. The Western Ghats play a huge role in the monsoon and is home to a number of sanctuaries and reserves for native flora and fauna. The Brahmagiri Wildife Sanctuary is characterized by dense forests and lush grasslands. The peak reaches up to 1,608 metres (5,275 feet) and is often covered in fog. Easier access to the peak became possible in 1908, when 500 stone steps were built. The hill is an important natural formation that also figures significantly in Hindu mythology, particularly in legends concerning Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. Here’s our comprehensive guide to Brahmagiri Hill, Karnataka, to help you plan your trip.
Scenic trek from Iruppu Falls
Brahmagiri offers a challenging terrain, but it is also a picturesque one amid evergreen forests. It is most hospitable from December to February and especially scenic from October to May. On the Karnataka side of the mountain range, the trek begins at Iruppu Falls. The distance from the falls to the highest peak is about 7-8 kilometres (about 5 miles). According to legend, the Tirtha River where the Iruppu falls originate sprung out of the earth from a point where an arrow shot by Lord Lakshmana landed. Lord Lakshmana is the brother of Lord Rama from the Sanskrit historical epic, the Ramayana.
Trekking trails with woody trees gradually open up to undulating meadows with flowering shrubs. The quiet hillside is often punctuated by chirps and birdsong, and small sounds of animals scurrying in the undergrowth. The trek is not so tiring until you reach the steep climb up the peak. For some trekkers, the descent is a bigger challenge than the ascent.
Thirunelli Masha Vishnu Temple
The ancient Thirunelli Temple on the hill’s Kerala side is believed to be built by Lord Brahma, the Creator. To this day, priests leave water for if and when he comes to perform pooja rites. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Preserver. Nearby is the Gunnika cave temple that is pledged to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. Records exist of ancient villages that were popular pilgrim towns, and at the center of the activity was Thirunelli temple. Situated at 900 metres (2953 feet) above sea level, it is surrounded by forest trees and beautiful scenery. The distance from the temple to the peak of Brahamagiri is 6 kilometres (3.7 miles).
One of the major highlights of the Thirunelli temple is that a Hindu can perform all rituals related to life and the afterlife here. When you arrive, observe 30 granite pillars adorning the temple, and see the remains of an ancient aqueduct. A holy rock, where prayer for ancestors are said, draws pilgrims from all parts of India. The temple is open to pilgrims from 5.30am to 12pm and 5.30pm to 8pm.
The Papanasini stream is central to the ancestral rituals performed in Thirunelli temple. The stream is situated about 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) from the temple. Flowing from Brahmagiri peak and through the roots of hundred-year old trees and medicinal herbs, water from the stream is believed to dissolve mortal sins. Cremation ashes are immersed in the waters, and pilgrims may also bathe in it.
You cannot enter the protected reserve without permission from the authorities. The Thirunelli Forest Range Officer and Srimangala Forest Range Officer must approve your itinerary. Entry tickets and trekking charge amount to USD 2.7 - USD 3.72 (INR 200 - INR 275).
Since you are trekking in a wildlife sanctuary, expect possible encounters with local fauna. Bird watchers would be excited to know the area is habitat for black bulbul and emerald doves. You’d have to watch out for reptiles such as the king cobra and python and stay away from them. But, you can relax when encountering mammals such as spotted deer, pangolin, lion-tailed macaque, and the giant flying squirrel. Elephants are known to be in the area, as well as tigers, wild dogs, and leopard cats. It’s best to let them be when you see them, and to follow the lead of your guide.
How to get there
Take the KSRTC bus, a government bus service if you are coming Bengaluru (Bangalore), the capital city of Karnataka state. From Bangalore, buy a bus ticket for Gonikkoppal (Gonikopalu) in Kodagu District. When you arrive, take another bus and head to Srimangala, Karnataka, for a direct route to Irrupu Falls. If you opt to drive, you’d be passing through Gonikopalu and Srimangala, as well. If you want to take a break before the next leg, there are hotels offering comfortable and clean lodgings in Gonikkoppal.
If you favor the railway, then find a route that lead to Mysore (Mysuru Junction) on the Mysore-Bangalore line. Mysore is a city in Karnataka State. It is the nearest train station to Brahmagiri Hill. From Mysuru Junction, you still have to travel a distance of 110 kilometres (68 miles) for about 3 hours and 30 minutes to reach Iruppu Falls.
How to get tickets
You must secure an official permit to be granted entry, and this can be obtained on site. Without a legal official permit, you will not be allowed to proceed. The trekking booking charge is USD 3.72 (INR 275) for each hiker. It is compulsory to take a guide for the trek up Brahmagiri. The fee for a certified guide is pegged at USD 2.70 (INR 200).
Brahmagiri Hill, Karnataka information
Brahmagiri Hill, Karnataka
Address: Kodagu District, Karnataka State, India
Department of Tourism: Brahmagiri Hill, Karnataka
News and updates for Brahmagiri Hill, Karnataka: Brahmagiri: A trek to heaven
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