Kodagu First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Kodagu, Coorgs and the People of Kodagu – here at Home and Overseas
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    Coorg

    The air smelled green. For someone from the city who is used to the smell of petrol fumes, garbage and fried food, inhaling this crisp, clean air was a real treat.

    My drive on the winding roads of Coorg transported me to another world. I put my head out of the car to click away at the Kodava houses lining the roads, quaint churches and local shops. My photo sessions attracted some curious glances from local women. I had officially arrived for my weekend in the coffee district of Karnataka, and my stay at one of the most luxurious resorts in the region was about to begin. As the rains pelted the roof of my cottage at Tamara Coorg, a luxury resort situated in the picturesque confines of lush verdant coffee plantations, I opened my eyes to the breathtaking view, wishing I could wake up to this every day.

    The mist kissed the foreheads of the silver oaks and the rosewoods, as I walked to the balcony with a hot mug of bella kapi. I sipped the aromatic yet comforting black coffee laced with cardamom and flavoured with jaggery, while listening to the symphony of cicadas and birdcalls. The fresh taste of coffee resurrected my soul and prepared me for the invigorating plantation walk that my hosts at the resort were kind enough to organise.

    After being playfully warned about the leeches by the resort’s guide, I remained skeptical about the trek around the 170-acre Kabbinakad Estate, tucked inside the resort. “Don’t worry, madam, leeches will only suck out the bad blood, and you won’t even feel the pain. You know they are now being used for medical treatments in several parts of the world,” he said. Nevertheless, his scientific explanation failed to comfort me as I tied my shoe laces tight, determined not to have my blood sucked out. ‘Just enjoy the walk, and take in the natural beauty,’ I told myself.

    Natural fortress

    Built strategically around landscaped waterfalls and glistening streams, the resort is home to some rare species of flora and fauna. As we walked around the plantation, we had the electro-pop background score of gushing falls and cicadas follow us wherever we went. “Hey, but why can’t I smell the coffee?” I asked out of ignorance. “Well, you won’t smell coffee here. But you will see the beans in different stages of growth,” my well-informed guide explained. Arabica and Robusta, the two kinds of coffee plants, are grown at the estate, which is dotted with cardamom plants and pepper vines.

    Handing me a bright green pod, the guide said, “Just bite into it and tell me what it is.” As I nibbled on the pod, suspiciously, waiting for some allergic reaction to pop out, a fragrant taste exploded my palate. “It’s cardamom, isn’t it?” I shouted excitedly. Finding my daily food ingredient in its freshest form left me hungry for more. By the end of the walk, I had savoured passion fruit right off a tree, watched in awe at the bitter lime tree pregnant with fresh fruits and beautiful wild mushrooms.

    Bird-watchers too have something to look forward to at the resort, as one can find some rare avian species, including Malabar trogons, Nilgiri laughing-thrushes, great black woodpeckers, and Malabar whistling-thrushes (that are a part of the night-time orchestra). Apart from these, yellow-browed bulbuls, Pacific swallows, grasshopper warblers, orphean warblers and yellow-billed babblers can also be spotted.

    Coffee kicks

    After teasing the touch-me-nots, collecting some rudraksha berries and clicking away at the luscious red ginger flowers and pristine white coffee blossoms, it was time to call it a day. But the coffee lover in me was still to be satiated. And the best was yet to come. The resort definitely knows how to woo coffee addicts, and my experience at The Verandah at Tamara Coorg made me fall in love with the drink that half of the world kick-starts the day with. Right from handpicking the fresh beans, drying them, roasting them, sifting through them and grinding them, coffee-making is nothing short of an art form. And the experience of making my very own brew made me feel like an alchemist. And the secret to pure healthy brew is roasting and grinding your own beans.

    A visit to Coorg will be incomplete without sampling the authentic Kodava cuisine that includes the famous pandi curry (pork curry) and koli barthad (chicken fried in spices). But for a vegetarian like me, it was best to tip-toe around the meaty dishes and stick to the green zone — lip-smacking mangye pajji (ripe mango curry), kadambuttus (rice dumplings), kumm curry (mushroom curry), akki rotis, banana fritters and sumptuous payasam.

    Coorg is blessed with nature’s bounty. Apart from plantation tours, one can trek to the nearby Manje Motte view point, Pathi Pole Falls and Ballyaatre Ridge. For wildlife and history enthusiasts, this quaint hamlet has a lot to offer in the form of Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park and Madikeri Fort. As the afternoon sun gave way to the golden light of dusk, dark clouds gradually invaded the sky. The rains pounded the earth with all their might, bringing to life every inch of the green surroundings. The perfect weather to cuddle up and read. Another day had come to an end in the land of the brave Kodava warriors, and I slept fitfully to the lullaby of noisy cicadas.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Sunday Herald travel / by Arundhati Pattabhiraman / August 17th, 2014

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    Mysore :

    A video reflecting the various facets of Kodagu has been put up on Youtube. The video titled ‘Discover Coorg — Land of the Brave and the Beautiful’ has been produced by freelance journalist and author P.T. Bopanna.

    Bopanna’s efforts so far were confined to his books and websites. Now, for the first time Bopanna has used the medium of video to capture the various facets of Kodagu.

    The Discover Coorg video features tourist spots, homestays, Coorg jewellery, the Kodava family hockey festival, and the golfing culture in Kodagu. It also captures the traditional tribal folk dances and even a colourful Kodava wedding.

    The video has been scripted and made under the creative supervision of Pattamada Sundar Muthanna, an advertising copywriter, who is passionate about Kodagu.

    The content for the video has been sourced mainly from Bopanna’s four websites: www.coorgtourisminfo.com, which was started in 2005, www.coorgrecipes.com, www.coorgjewellery.in and www.coorghomestays.co.in

    A section of the video on ‘How to wear a Coorg sari’ was produced earlier by Bopanna for his website www.coorgjewellery.in. The video was directed by fashion guru Prasad Bidapa.

    One can view the latest video by visiting the website www.coorgtourisminfo.com or through the Youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXN3aer12HY.

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> Feature Articles / August 05th, 2014

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    The work on a temporary project to supply water from Kundamestri is nearing completion. The water from Kundamestri is likely to be supplied to the citizens of Madikeri by the week end.

    Sand bunds have been laid to store water. The collected water will be supplied to Kootuhole through pipes. After filtering the water at a Filter house at Stuart Hill, water will be supplied to the citizens.

    Madikeri reels under water crisis every year during summer. The work on Kundamestri project was initiated to mitigate water crisis.

    However, owing to delay in release of funds, the work could not be completed. Now the estimated cost of the project has been escalated.

    The Kundamestri project is being implemented by Karnataka Water Supply and Sewage Board. It will take another one year to complete the work.

    Board Executive Engineer Balachandra has expressed confidence of completing the work. The project has been taken up keeping in mind the development of Madikeri in the next 50 years.

    When the water level declines in Kootuhole, water will be supplied from Kundamestri to Kootuhole.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / Srikanth Kallammanavar / Madikeri – DHNS, July 26th, 2014

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    Udaka Mandala is Karnataka’s other place by the waters that became more famous as Ooty, or Ootacamund thanks to the Brits. Elsewhere, the denizens of John Bull’s Island changed Mumbai to Bombay and Beijing to Peking.

    However, like the refreshing confluences of rivers, the close encounters of the cultural kind led to enriching mergers and acquisitions. A fine example is the Omkareshwara Temple at Madikeri, which is not far from the sacred confluence. King Lingarajendra built it in 1820 around a central pool using a mix of Islamic and Gothic styles.

    The golden-domed shrine with its whitewashed walls and red borders is dedicated to Shiva in the form of a Linga brought from Benares. Both Lingarajendra and his predecessor Virarajendra are buried in a compound north of Madikeri.

    Outwardly, these domed tombs with their short minarets look like Islamic monuments but they are richly embellished inside with Shaivite symbols and imagery. The syncretism that led to the creation of these memorials was definitely ahead of its times.

    The revival of Indo-Saracenic style in Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi came later.

    This required a spirit of amity and cultural convergence. This is best summed up in a quote from the Panchatantra engraved on the lintels of the Parliament building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker some 20 years before Independence: “That one is mine and the other a stranger is the concept of little minds . But to the large-hearted , the world itself is their family.”

    source: http://www.articles.economictimes.com / The Economic Times / Home> Collections> Bombay / by Vithal C. Nadkarni, ET Bureau / May 31st, 2013

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    Mysore :

    A train to Kodagu could now be possible, which could sell tourism potential of the hill station to both domestic and foreign tourists and be the driver of economy.

    Thanks to railway minister D V Sadananda Gowda, the only district in Karnataka without railway connectivity is inching closer to get on the rail map of India.

    Gowda, whose wife Datty is from Kodagu district, on Tuesday approved the survey of new line that will connect Mysore to Madikeri, the district headquarters. He said: “I am happy to announce that the survey for Mysore-Kushalnagar portion of Mysore-Kushalnagar-Madikeri new line has been completed and the state government has agreed to share cost of the project. This will provide rail connectivity to important tourist destinations in Kodagu (Coorg). I propose to pursue this project for obtaining requisite approvals after completion of remaining survey up to Madikeri.”

    Sources in the Mysore division of the South Western Railway said that the survey between Mysore and Kushalnagar has been completed in 2011. The preliminary survey between Kushalnagar and Madikeri is completed t the final location survey is not taken up. With the approval from the railway minister, the project is back on track, they told The Times of India. The Mysore-Kushalnagar section is estimated to be 89 kms long and is planned to have over five stations including one at Peripayapatna. But the estimate for this section is not prepared, they added. As the minister has said if the state government funds its share, the project can be taken up, they explained adding the survey for the remaining portion can be completed within an year.

    The Mysore Industries Association welcomed the move and said it will help in the development of the area.

    Besides, the track doubling works between Mysore and Bangalore is expected to completed year end, which will improve connectivity to the city. Gowda has said that they plan to open the double track by February 2015 and operate trains. Inclusion of Mysore-Bangalore-Chennai corridor for high speed train connectivity is also welcomed by the MIA.

    Connectivity to Shimoga set to improve

    Gowda has also announced new survey between Talguppa and Siddapura in Uttara Kannada, which could help link the costal Karnataka to the Malnad region. It was long pending demand of the public to extend railway connectivity from Talguppa near Jog Falls in Shimoga district and link it to Konkan Railway. Shimoga, represented by former CM B S Yeddyurappa in the Lok Sabha, has also got lucky with a new survey ordered between Shimoga and Mangalore via Sringeri. Shimoga has also got a bi-weekly train to Bangalore.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Msore / by H M Aravind, TNN / July 08th, 2014

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    Kodira A Kushalapa writes why there is an urgent and dire need to protect the natural landscape of Kodagu, the “Scotland of India”.

    The erstwhile state of Kodagu is now a district in Karnataka with nature and culture, that require immediate efforts to conserve, not only for the present, but also for the future generations to survive.

    The district is partly located on the Western Ghats with a portion on the east.

    The Western Ghats is considered an ecologically sensitive area and requires careful scientific approach in its development and management, failing which, it will have adverse impacts on the entire southern part of India.

    Under Article 48A of the constitution, the government is under an obligation to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

    Under Article 51A(g), likewise, each one of us as citizens, has the obligation to “protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.” There are several issues that require careful and urgent handling.

    Paddy cultivation
    The district, on an average, receives over 2500 mm of rainfall annually and is ideally suited for rain-fed paddy cultivation.
    People were cultivating only paddy till the British invasion in 1834 and took up coffee cultivation subsequently.

    Now, only 10 to 12 per cent of its total area is under paddy. It is been discovered recently that paddy cultivation is not economical and farmers are diverting their paddy fields for cultivating cash crops or for construction, without any concern and forethought.
    This has increased the run-off during the rainy season, resulting in flash floods, damaging the lands by accelerated soil erosion. Paddy cultivation was impounding rainwater for about 100 in paddy fields, allowing slow infiltration enriching the subsoil groundwater.

    This would be beneficial to us later, due to slow release of the groundwater, to maintain continuous flow in rivers.

    Now the rivers are almost dry during summer, indicating that there is a need for encouraging paddy cultivation all over Kodagu district by introducing incentives, subsidy and support price.

    The government should immediately prohibit conversion and use of paddy fields for any other purpose, like it has been done in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada.

    Another issue which needs immediate attention is reduction of crop damage by wild animals, which has forced many farmers to abandon paddy cultivation.

    Forest conservation

    Nearly 31 per cent of the geographical area of Kodagu is under forests managed by the government. Tropical evergreen forests dot this landscape.

    Any disturbance to them will make the area barren, like we see around Talacauvery, where the once dense forests have now been reduced to grasslands due to continuous use of wood by pilgrims.

    These lands are so degraded with poor nutrient top soils, that reforestation has become a hard task.

    The forests have to be protected to facilitate infiltration of rainwater and to prevent accelerated soil erosion.

    Natural forests once destroyed cannot be recreated and reforestation can only create plantations.

    The various forest and wildlife acts should be strictly implemented and the persons who violate them should be suitably punished.

    Relocation

    There are a number of cases of encroachment in the forests. Even high forests like Devarakadu and national parks have been encroached upon, where wildlife need relocation and rehabilitation, outside the forests and possibly even out of Kodagu district to drier areas suitable for agriculture.

    The Forest Rights Act envisages the issue of khatha to all tribals and others, residing inside forests for 2 to 3 generations, not to continue there only inside the forests, but as an important document to get equal areas outside forests during relocation.

    The union government is committed to grant Rs 10 lakh per family during the relocation to bigger and compact blocks.

    Fodder development is another important activity to contain wild animals inside government forests. The flowering of bamboos has left only dried clumps and have become hazardous to forest fires.

    Grass and other fodder species have been destroyed and invaded by lantana and other weeds as ground flora, preventing natural regeneration of native species.

    It is impossible to raise any fodder plants now in government forests unless large blocks or compartments are properly fenced and protected and then planted with tall seedlings of fodder species annually to cover the entire forests.

    In addition, profuse aerial seeding of treated bamboo and other miscellaneous seeds should be taken up with the onset of monsoon all over the forests.

    The old plantations of teak covering over 7000 ha in Nagarhole National Park and other areas should be harvested and liquidated in a phased manner (with special permission of the Central government) and followed by planting of bamboo seedlings to develop fodder resources to wild animals.

    The forest department should give priority for creating barriers along the boundaries of government forests and develop fodder resources for herbivores inside such forests.

    Development of tourism

    Kodagu has attracted tourists from all over the world, creating irreparable damage to the landscape.

    The presence of numerous resorts and homestays all over the district has attracted more tourists resulting in landslides, water scarcity, waste management problems, bad roads, felling of trees for constructing houses, influx of outsiders for business and settlement and high cost of living.

    There is no proper guidance and control for activities like registration of homestays and resorts, study of environmental impact assessment and carrying capacity of every activity.

    The building and house constructions have been taken up on steep terrains as seen in Madikeri and Virajpet landscapes, making the hills barren.

    The riverside areas are all occupied unauthorisedly, polluting river water.

    There is a need to control and restrict the tourists coming to Kodagu, by studying the carrying capacity of land involved in every activity and their impact on environment and framing suitable guidelines.

    Management of private forests

    Nearly 75 per cent of the area in the district is covered by trees.
    Coffee estates maintain sufficient shade trees per ha in which silver oak gets precedence due to its faster rate of growth, straightness of bole, multiple use of wood for planks, furniture, peeling, plywood etc and exempted from felling and transit permits and fetches revenue returns in about 30 years.

    However, its cultivation should be restricted to allow other indigenous species to maintain biodiversity, to facilitate birds and bees to control pests and increase pollination.

    Jamma malai and Jamma bane land holders who have also maintained trees in their land should be given tree rights as an incentive to grow more trees to supplement their income when necessary.

    There is, however, a section in the Karnataka Forest Act with a provision to take over the management of private forests by forest department, if the owners violate the provisions of the Act and management principles. This would be binding on the owners to protect the standing trees.

    Under the provisions of Karnataka Protection of Trees Act, if a tree is felled, double the number of seedlings should be planted by the owners and this would ensure the sustainability of tree cover.
    Therefore the ownership rights of the trees should be with the owners.


    Land ownership

    Jamma land holder
    s have been enjoying the land tenure even before the rule of Lingayat Rajas, who surveyed, documented and levied necessary land tax.

    The Bane lands attached to paddy fields called Jamma Bane, in many families, have been converted into coffee and other plantations and by paying necessary tax, are now the property of those families.
    The Jamma malai owners have been negotiating with the government to surrender their privileges for a reasonable compensation, which should be accepted as these malais are situated on the ecologically sensitive hill ranges and the composition is similar to natural evergreen forest types.

    Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds could be utilised to pay compensation. Necessary amendments to the KF Act should be introduced to make the families of Jamma holders as the rightful owners of Jamma lands.

    However, to safeguard the unique culture of natives of Kodagu, the sale of their Jamma property should be prohibited, except for other Jamma holders only.

    High Tension 400 kV line

    The proposal to draw a 400 kV line, partly along the reserve forest, private wetlands and coffee estates was met with stiff opposition from local people.

    There are several alternate routes available, such as, along the Mysore-Kodagu forest boundary line, or by upgrading the older available 220 kV line or taking through an underground tunnel (not feasible here) without clearing much forest growth.

    Amendment 4.4 to the FC Act issued by Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) on January 7, 2013, indicates that for linear projects, alternate routes, if available should be indicated and availed of, so that forest lands are saved.

    This linear project should be aligned outside the protected area without any consideration of increased cost and accordingly the MoEF may be appraised to allow the HT line through alternate non-forest areas.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Environment / by Kodira A. Kushalapa / DHNS – July 08th, 2014

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    With the revenue, forest and land survey departments initiating the process of consolidating the land records of deemed forest in accordance with the survey number, a clear picture on the total area of deemed forest in Kodagu district is likely to be available in next 15 days.

    According to sources, the decision to accumulate information on deemed forest has been taken in a district level meeting chaired by Deputy Commissioner Anurag Tiwari, based on the government’s order to re-examine deemed forest records.

    Deemed forest is described as private land with features of the forest.

    The government has already issued notification declaring various classifications of forests including reserve forest, protected/minor forest, sacred grove, Uruduve, sandal-teak reserve, village forest and Paisari. After collecting details about the already declared forest region, the officials are planning to examine private forest.

    The deemed forest identified by the government in the past, comprised of Jamma Malai, Bane and C and D land.

    The land records of these land was different with forest and revenue department documents, creating confusion not only among the public, but also in the government level.

    In order to clear the confusion, the government has directed the district administration to specifically identify the notified forest and deemed forest.

    It was based on this order, the deputy commissioner chaired a meeting to discuss the issue on Wednesday.

    Additional Deputy Commissioner H Prasanna, Deputy Conservator of Forest Hnaumanthappa and Dhananjay, Land Records Deputy Director Mallikarjunaiah, tahsildars of Madikeri, Somwarpet and Virajpet and other officers were present in the meeting.

    Background

    In Godaverman case judgement, the Supreme Court had directed all the states to provide information about the forest land in their limits.

    The court had specified to consider the word ‘forest’ as per its connotation in the dictionary.

    According to the dictionary, forest implies a land spreading across at least 2.5 hectare with minimum 50 trees in it.

    Accordingly, a large portion of private land in Kodagu district too comes under the purview of ‘forest’ as they are spread over 2.5 hectare land comprising more than 50 trees.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / by Shrikanth Kallammanavar / Madikeri – July 04th, 2014

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    The district-level committee formed to do a reality check of the deemed forest land in Kodagu district will convene its first meeting in a week and is likely to submit a comprehensive report to the government within six months.

    The committee chaired by the deputy commissioner comprises of the deputy conservator of forest, deputy director of land records and officers from revenue and forest departments.

    In order to verify the report submitted by an experts committee on deemed forest in 2002, the State government has formed district committee in district level, zonal committee in revenue level and state committee in state level.

    According to sources, the district committee will conduct a survey in the district and prepare a report on deemed forest scenario in Kodagu. The functioning of the district committee will be supervised by the zonal committee and state committee on a time bound manner and give suggestions as and when required.

    What is deemed forest

    If a land has the features of forest, where trees are grown outside the purview of government recognised forest land, it is called as deemed forest. The experts committee formed in 2002 had put the deemed forest land figure in the State at 9,94,881 hectare. About 69,205 hectare deemed forest land identified in Kodagu district, also comprises of Bane, Paisari, Kumki Malai, C and D land and plantation.

    It all started with the Supreme Court directing all states to provide information about the forest land, during the hearing of Godavarman Thirumalapad case in 1995. As per the order, the Karnataka government formed the first experts committee, which submitted the report to the government on April 2, 1997.

    While submitting the report before the apex court, the government stated that it has completed the process of identifying the area which has been officially declared as forest land. The government requested additional time for identifying the forest land which has not been officially declared.

    On observing the delay by the Karnataka government in submitting the report, the Central Empowered Committee of the SC took the government to task, following which the government revised the experts committee.

    This second committee identified 33,24,854 hectare land as notified forest and 9,94,881 hectare as deemed forest. The committee, in fact, included even the barren forest land as deemed forest. It also included C and D land, Bane and Paisari.

    Due to identifying even Paisari land as deemed forest in various districts including Kodagu, the government is neither able to take up various projects in this land, nor it can make sites to be distributed to poor. Even the work on providing basic facilities like construction of road can not be taken up.

    In several cases, the revenue land (Paisari) which has been sanctioned to beneficiaries under Akrama Sakrama, is also considered in the list of deemed forest, due to which RTC can not be made in the name of beneficiaries. To solve the impeding problem the new committee has been formed for conducting a joint survey.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / by Shrikanth Kallammanavar / Madikeri, DHNS – June 19th, 2014

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    Kodagu residents oppose the project

    The three-member Technical Experts’ Committee seen gathering public opinion in Madikeri on Thursday.

    The three-member Technical Experts’ Committee seen gathering public opinion in Madikeri on Thursday.

    Madikeri :

    A three members Technical Experts’ Committee visited Kodagu district on Thursday to study the possibilities of finding an alternate route to lay 400 KV hi-tension line from Kozhikode in Kerala to Mysore. This has come up in the backdrop of stern opposition from the people against the electricity line passing through Kodagu district.

    The committee members visited the places in and around Maldare where the project is implemented and collected public opinion. Representatives from various organisations, including Viju Biddappa from Maldare, Kaveri Sene President Raghu Machaiah, Convener Ravi Chengappa, K.C. Subbaiah, Basavana Devana Bana Trust President B.C. Nanjappa, Chennayyana Kote Gram Panchayat member Shyam, Coorg Wildlife Society President Colonel C.P. Muthanna and others, shared their opinions.

    They all said that thousands of trees will be felled if the line passes through Kodagu. This will have negative impact on the environment, wildlife and coffee growers. Therefore, an alternate route has to be found out for laying the wires, they insisted.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Committee Head R.S. Shivakumar Aradhya said that a lot of factors like environment and technical feasibility and project expenditure has to be taken into consideration while finding an alternate route. “We will submit the report to the government within a month. We will visit Kutta and surrounding region on Friday and examine the problem,” he said.

    The government formed the Committee chaired by Shivakumar Aradhya, in response to the continuous opposition and protest by villagers and various organisations opposing the project. Forest Department senior officials Ajay Mishra and elephant expert Sukumaran are the other two members of the Committee.

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> General News / June 14th, 2014

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    Samyak Kaninde/Getty

    Samyak Kaninde/Getty

    India has become known for the congested traffic and crowds of the cities. To escape the madness, Indians head to Coorg, a land of lush beauty, traditional food, and—sigh—tranquility.

    On a recent family visit to Delhi, with its acrid air and evil traffic, my mother suggested an escape—a long weekend in Coorg, some 1,400 miles away in a tiny corner of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, just north of Kerala. In spite of its unprepossessing size, Coorg, which the British called the Scotland of India, is a region of intense pride and history. Many Indians regard it as a quasi-mythical place, a land of lush hills, temperate climate, martial men, and handsome women. Its ample rain and still-thick forests, not to mention its low population density, make it one of the few remaining Shangri-Las in over-peopled India.

    Tyrannical rajahs ruled Coorg until the British, who knew a promising escape from the heat when they saw one, annexed it to the East India Company’s territory in 1834. The British established farms there, recruited the famously valorous Coorg natives for their Imperial mission, and, in 1947, left behind tidy settlements of Victorian-influenced cottages in shades of lavender, rose, and mint, along with graceful plantations of Robusta and Arabica coffee. Coffee flowers smell something like jasmine, and from mid-March to early April, the white blossoms add their perfume to the other scents of the region—orange, pepper, cardamom, vanilla, honey.

    While venerable hill stations in other parts of India are overrun with tourists, doughty little Coorg is still putting up a fight to retain its old essence, even as it welcomes visitors with courtly hospitality. Coorg is a fashionable destination for wealthy Indian travelers hungry for places cool and green—not merely in the literal sense, but also in keeping with the eco-alert, Indo-centric new ethos of the country’s intelligentsia. Coorg is not a hippy-strewn, land-locked Goa. Nor is it a more verdant Jaipur, overrun with Bloomingdale’s buyers. It’s a more understated and introspective sort of place that honors its roots. The locals worship their ancestors, and their attachment to family land is almost visceral. Coorg isn’t easy to get to from afar, for which we should be grateful. Bangalore is the nearest international airport, a six-hour drive away. The highway is smooth and hassle-free by Indian standards, until you get close to Coorg, when you hit sinuous roads that wind through hillsides: these can range from bumpy to bone-jarring, and are best tackled at a sedate pace, all the better to take in the landscape.

    “India’s cities are so insistently provocative that, for a certain class of Indian, to be under-stimulated has become the ultimate luxury.”

    India’s cities are so insistently provocative that, for a certain class of Indian, to be under-stimulated has become the ultimate luxury. For some time now, members of the Indian elite who have no family connection to the place have been quietly buying land in Coorg, building vacation houses in its remote hills and valleys. Once obsessed with gleaming hotel towers and swimming pools in the “foreign” mold, India’s domestic tourists have grown infinitely more sophisticated and, even, jaded. Indians who have “been there, done that” in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and the Swiss Alps want languid escapes from their overscheduled lives. And they are deeply nostalgic for the quiet India—so recently changed—that they remember from childhood vacations.

    Enter the Taj Group, with its astute understanding of the needs of the well-heeled and the well-traveled. Their hotel in Coorg, situated near the region’s capital, Madikeri, is called “Vivanta by Taj,” and it is the company’s nimble response to travelers who clamor to get off the beaten track without collapsing from weariness and worry.

    With its hotel outside Madikeri, Taj promises “a haven for the curious mind,” dotted with “interpretive nature trails” set in a “model of coexistence.” The Eden theme is coupled with a celebration of modesty that seems to reflect a wider backlash against modern Indian brashness. The property comprises 180 acres of rainforest, and each of the 60-odd cottages and villas offers views of woods, cloud, and vibrant green. The buildings are beautifully unobtrusive, designed to be in hushed harmony with the surroundings. In the evenings, the lighting is subdued, almost apologetic, and this deference to nature is apparent also in the materials used: wood and local stone, the architecture seeking to emulate the Coorg vernacular.

    The hotel was built on land carefully surveyed to avoid displacing trees in a rainforest teeming with some 350 species of flora and fauna. Compressed soil from the site was used to make the bricks for the resort. Most of the stone used was sourced from within a 200-mile radius of the hotel’s premises. The interiors of the cottages resemble the sort of understated living room you might find in a gracious Indian home. The roof-tiles are handmade and repurposed from dismantled houses in Tamil

    Nadu, Pondicherry, and Andhra Pradesh. “Revived craft” artifacts made by indigenous tribes—like light fixtures fashioned from old-style fish traps—are incorporated into the décor, providing both authentic ambience and employment for local craftsmen. The property’s architect, Pramod Ranjan, aimed for an unobtrusive, minimalist design that allows the organic landscape to outshine the manmade artifacts. That said, the manmade and the natural do converge in a setting of utter glory: the infinity pool in the hotel’s main building, where, immersed in warm water, one can gaze upon a lush green heaven that stretches for miles before the eye.

    Traditional food is also “revived with love” at the hotel. Native Coorg cuisine is a delight to savor. It revolves around a few local ingredients, such as Kachampuli (a type of vinegar), pepper, chilies, rice flour, coconut, and Maddu Soppu, a medicinal leaf believed to confer 18 healthful properties, each especially effective if delivered on a particular day of the year. Succulent pork also figures centrally in the local cuisine, along with dishes made from bamboo shoots, wild mushrooms, banana stems, and jackfruit—flavors that have not yet been appropriated by the vacation-industrial complex.

    Coorg also offers its share of picturesque anthropology. The Kodavas, the people of Coorg, revere weaponry and maintain a reputation as brave soldiers well represented in India’s wars. They are tall and light-skinned, when compared with other south Indians, and some attribute their appearance to Arab blood. Others contend that Greek mercenaries who came to India with Alexander the Great left their genetic mark in Coorg. At the hotel, however, the staff reflects the variety of modern India: our bartender, whom I tested with the making of a martini, was from Himachal Pradesh, in the far north; the cheerful chatterbox who waited on us at dinner was from Orissa, in the coastal east. But the unmistakable tenor of the place was that of a Coorg bastion, a hotel in the heart of a fabled region, bathed in mist in the morning and alive with the sounds of birds at dusk. A graceful, benign getaway it was, and we wrenched ourselves from it sorrowfully at the end, hating the horror of a return to Delhi.

    source: http://www.thedailybeast.com / The Daily Beast / Home> Great Escapes / by Tunku Varadarajan / March 25th, 2014

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