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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    Kasturirangan Varadi Horata Samiti Member Cheranda Nanda Subbaiah called upon people of Kodagu district to arrive at large number to express their opposition to Kasturirangan report, during the visit of State-level expert panel members, at Fort premises in Madikeri on Friday.

    Speaking at a press conference here on Thursday, he said: “The people of the district should stop the recommendations of Kasturirangan report from implementing as it is question of our future generation. The draft published by the Central government is completely anti-people. Members of the various organisations and general public should express their objections before the expert panel members,” he said.

    “The recomendation is made to identify Western Ghat and 10 km of nearby area as ecologically sensitive areas and ban mining and other activities in the region. So, opposing the reporting is our necessity and need of the hour. We have do demand to keep residential areas, farm land, coffee plantations, Devarakaadu areas of tribal out of the ecologically sensitive area. If we don’t get positive response from government’s side, we will continue our protest,” he said.

    If they declare ecologically sensitive areas, C and D land, Baane lands will be declared as deemed forest. Buffer zones will also be declared. Later, where is the land for people for living? he questioned. The people of the district have same opinion about the Kasturirangan report and the government can not implement the recommendations of the report against public opinion. People from every village will come to Madikeri to submit their objection, he added.

    Committee Member Bottangady Raju said that panel should make changes in the demands submitted by the people.

    Ready to share woes

    Various political party leaders and heads of organisations would submit memorandums to the panel members who will collect opinions of people who live in the areas which come under ecologically sensitive areas. Along with Kasturirangan Varadi Virodhi Horata Samiti, Congress, BJP and JD(S) leaders, MP Pratap Simha, MLA K G Bhopaiah, Appachu Ranjan, Zilla Panchayat President Shareen Subbaiah and many others will submit memorandums.

    Congress District President B T Pradeep said that no development work can be started in 53 villages which would come under ecologically sensitive areas. It would make life hazardous for the people. JD(S) District President V P Shashidhar said that similar protest was conducted against Kasturirangan report at Kerala and the Central government had to drop many places from the list.

    Concession should be given in Kodagu also. We will give a memorandum to the expert panel, he said.

    DH News Service

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / Madikeri, DHNS – November 27th, 2014

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    The High level Working Group of Western Ghats (HLWG) has identified 1,576 villages in Karnataka as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA). Of which, 53 villages have been included in Kodagu district. Additional DC Abhiram G Shankar and DCF Manikanta have directed the officials from Forest and Revenue departments to submit the report on ESAs after conducting a survey by November 24.

    Speaking at a training for the officials on Monday, the Additional DC said that the officials should visit the identified villages and submit a report. After compiling the reports submitted by the officials, a detailed report will be sent to the State government.

    Teams have been constituted to identify natural landscapes. The district level committee will have DC and forest officials as its members, while the village level committee will have officials from revenue, forest and gram panchayat president as its members. The public and NGOs can give their representation on ESAs to the district level committee.

    The Additional DC said, if need be, the survey would be undertaken after consulting Horticulture and Agriculture departments.

    The villages identified as ESAs are Ayyangeri, Bettathooru, Bhagamandala, Chelavara, Cherangala, Galibeedu, Hammiyala, Kalooru, Karada, Karike, Kolagadalu, Kopatti, Kundachery, Made, Melchembu, Monnangeri, Mukkodlu, Naladi, Peroor, Sampaje, Sannapolikotu, Tannimani and Yavakapady in Madikeri taluk; Aanekadu, Athoor forest, Bageri forest, Jainkalabetta, Yadavanadu, Jainkalabetta 2, Kattepura, Kumaralli, Maralli, Malambi, Mavinahalla, Mulluru, Nidta, Soorlabbu and Yadavanadu forest -2 in Somwarpet taluk and Arekeri forest-1, Arekere forest-3, Badaga, Badagarakeri, Chennayana Kote, Devamacchi forest, Devanooru Hathugattu, Teggalli, Karadigodu, Kedamullur, Kurchi, Kutta, Kuttandi, Maldare, Manchalli, Nalakeri forest, Palangala forest, Parakattageri and Badaga in Virajpet taluk.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / Madikeri – DHNS, November 11th, 2014

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    Kodagu Circle Chief Conservator of Forest Jagmohan Varma has clarified that coffee plantation in Kodagu can not be considered as deemed forest. This is based on the government’s order that plantation in private property should not be considered as deemed forest.

    Speaking to Deccan Herald, the officer said that the process of identifying deemed forest is under progress in the district, in the backdrop of the Supreme Court and State government’s order.

    It is a common notion that a land with features of forest is deemed forest. But, as per the government order dated May 15, 2014, private plantation with any number of forest will not be considered as deemed forest. Therefore, there is no reason for coffee, cardamom, pepper and rubber planters to worry about, he assured.

    Private forest

    Explaining the word ‘private forest’ as defined in the government order, the Chief Conservator of Forest said that private forest is the land comprising of more than 50 trees per hectare land and each tree with a width of more than 30 cm. “The forest department along with revenue department is collecting details about private forests in the district. A district-level meeting chaired by Deputy Commissioner Anurag Tewari too has been convened. Village level inspection will be carried out soon,” he said.

    Further, Jagmohan Varma said that the State government’s order describes a wide range of forests that exist in Kodagu, including Forest-Paisari which is considered as forest land.

    According to Coorg Land and Revenue Regulation 1899, Section 143, Sub Section (1) (F), Forest-Paisari land has been notified as forest in 1901. Therefore, the recent order too considers Forest-Paisari as forest land.

    The land that is mentioned as forest in government documents, will be considered as deemed forest. The government has given the instruction to all district administration to submit a detailed report on deemed forest in every district, within May 15.

    What is deemed forest?

    Deemed forest is the private and paisari land with forest like features. The Supreme Court while hearing Godavarman Thirumalapad case in 1995, had directed all the States to collect information about deemed forest. Following the order, the State government polled information about forest land and deemed forest.

    However, the survey was not concrete, as the deemed forest list also comprised of paisari and empty (khulla) land and details like survey number and map too was not appropriate.

    Therefore, re-survey has been taken up to prepare a comprehensive report on deemed forest in the State.
    DH News Service

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / by Shrikanth Kallammanavar / Madikeri – DHNS, November 06th, 2014

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    With this, Mysore–Madikeri project has taken a step forward

    The Mysore–Madikeri railway line project has taken a step forward with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issuing clearance for the survey work between Kushalnagar and Madikeri.

    This was disclosed by Railway officials at the Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee meeting here on Wednesday.

    The environmental clearance was received last week and the authorities plan to complete the survey and submit the report to the Railway Board by March 31, 2015.

    The preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey for the railway line was launched in December 2011, but was taken up only between Mysuru and Kushalnagar and the partial survey report was submitted to the Railway Board. Though the project was shelved by the Railway Board on grounds of being commercially unviable, the State government has evinced interest in the project and has agreed to take it up on a cost-sharing basis, apart from providing land to the Railways.

    The first phase of the project entails providing railway link between Mysuru and Kushalnagar at a cost of Rs. 660 crore. It will also connect Hunsur and Periyapatna.

    Interestingly, the project was included in the Railway Budget 2010–11 under the ‘socially desirable rail connectivity’.

    The first proposal for providing a rail link between Mysuru and Madikeri was mooted in 1881-82, according to the Mysore Gazetteer.

    Another project

    On the Shivamogga–Harihar railway line project, it was pointed out that the detailed survey for the new broad-gauge line had been completed. The 76-km project is expected to cost Rs. 832 crore and will be taken up on a cost-sharing basis between the Railways and the State government. Though the Railway authorities had sought 1,000 acres of land, it is yet to be acquired.

    The work can commence, provided the State government hands over adequate land to take up the work on at least a 40-km stretch, according to the officials.

    Divisional Railway Manager Rajkumar Lal, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager Anil Kumar, senior officials of different departments from the Railways, and stakeholders from various districts coming under the Mysore Railway Division were present.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> National> Karnataka / by R. Krishna Kumar / Mysuru – November 06th, 2014

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    Cottabetta Bungalow. Tata owns seven bungalows in Coorg, and every bungalow is set amidst a 1,000 acre plantation.

    Cottabetta Bungalow. Tata owns seven bungalows in Coorg, and every bungalow is set amidst a 1,000 acre plantation.



    USP: Live the planter’s life

    There is freshness in the crisp air caressing your face. Picture-postcard greenery fills your senses. Add to it a welcome shower. There is magic in Coorg, the coffee country.

    SMELL THE BEANS At Cottabetta Bungalow. Photos: Special Arrangement

    SMELL THE BEANS At Cottabetta Bungalow. Photos: Special Arrangement

    The escape to the Tata plantation coffee trails in Coorg during the monsoon turns out to be a bonanza. After a six-hour drive from Bangalore, past the Mysore Highway, Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, bamboo forests, cinnamon trees interspersed with teak trees on which pepper vines climb to great heights, and the ubiquitous coffee plantations, we reach Tata’s bungalow in Cottabetta (meaning cold mountain).

    Tata owns seven bungalows in Coorg, and every bungalow is set amidst a 1,000 acre plantation. The three-bedroom and five-bedroom bungalows, occupied by the managers of Tata, have been converted into cottages, superior, luxury and heritage rooms and heritage suites. “The bungalows went vacant after the managers took VRS. As the butlers, cooks and gardeners continued working to maintain the bungalows, our management came up with the idea of homestays,” says K.C. Poovaiah, head of Plantation Trails, Tata Coffee.

    Once occupied by British planters, the bungalows are more than 100 years old, but modified suitably for modern-day needs. Every bungalow is built on a higher elevation, overlooking the mountains and the plantations. Cottabetta is one of them. And, what a view! The majestic mountains open up — on the south is Kerala and to the North is Periyapatna, Kushal Nagar and the Madikeri hills.

    Once occupied by British planters, the bungalows are more than 100 years old, but modified suitably for modern-day needs.

    Once occupied by British planters, the bungalows are more than 100 years old, but modified suitably for modern-day needs.

    As you take in the picturesque landscape from the portico, a curved road amidst the Tithimathi forests catches your eye. “It is a part of the Mysore Road,” Poovaiah explains. “When the British planters used to drive down, they would dim and dip the headlights at this point to alert the cooks.”

    I check into one of the luxury rooms — the decoration is minimal but it has the comfort of a home. However, the bathroom is lavish with a bath tub. And, there is a beautiful balcony to sit and soak in the silence.

    Barbets, drongos, golden orioles, parakeets, red whiskered bulbuls, flower peckers and sunbirds flutter by and feast on the jamuns, guavas, chikkus, mangoes and gooseberries, the inter-crops supported by the plantations.

    Our tour of the bungalows begin with Woshulli, known for the spectacular view it offers of the Durbeen (binoculars) Road snaking through the plantations. (Vishal Bhardwaj has shot here for his new film “Saat Khoon Maaf”, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh, Priyanka Chopra and John Abraham.)

    At the manicured 25-acre, nine-hole golf course in Polibetta, it is monsoon magic again. As it buckets down, we take cover under the majestic ficus tree, watch the rain pour down in sheets and sprint back to the car.

    Then, we set off to Surgi bungalow and the plantation trail at Taneerhulla and Woshulli plantations spread across a sprawling 1,340 acres. “We get tonnes of litchis every year,” says plantation guide M.K. Umesh, pointing to the giant litchi tree (planted by the British) at the bungalow.

    Umesh peppers the trail with scary elephant stories, and we stop at intervals to touch and smell coffee beans, pepper and vanilla. The Robusta coffee bushes here are 130 years old. Back at the bungalow, biting into crisp, hot onion pakodas served by the courteous staff, sipping coffee and watching the mist-capped hills is just the perfect way to end a beautiful outing in the hills.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Features> Metroplus> Travel / by K. Jeshi / August 26th, 2010

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    Madikeri :

    Chief Minister Siddharamaiah will inaugurate the new Kodagu District Administration Complex here on Nov. 3.

    The CM will arrive from Bangalore by a helicopter and land at the Golf Ground Helipad, Madikeri at 12.25 pm, following which he will inaugurate the newly built District Administration complex constructed near the Gandhi Maidan at a cost of Rs. 14.45 crore. Several developmental programmes will be launched after which a progress review meeting will be held at 1.30 pm.

    More than 20 government offices which were functioning from the Fort premises for decades, are all set to move to the new building.

    The new structure is a 4 storeyed building (including the ground floor), featuring spacious rooms for functioning of the offices.

    The Archaeology Department had served several notices to the District Administration, asking it to evacuate the government offices from the Fort premises. But as there were no alternate arrangement, the offices continued to function from the Fort premises.

    Continued efforts by the District Administration and the people’s organisations have ultimately bore fruit with the new District Administration complex coming up at the sprawling 2.20 acre area of the central workshop at Gandhi Maidan in the town.

    Once the location for the new structure was finalised, the State government released Rs. 3 crore in 2009. The construction contract was awarded to Bangalore-based Gadiraju construction company.

    The District Administration complex, having a built up area of 90,000 sq.ft., facilitates vehicle parking and records store room in the ground floor.

    The first-floor provides for housing 22 departments apart from separate rooms for the Lok Sabha MP and District in-Charge Minister.

    The second-floor houses the Assistant Commissioner’s office and the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.

    The third-floor houses the DC office, the additional DC’s office, court hall and video conference hall.

    Lift facility: The 4-storeyed building will have a lift facility for the benefit of public.

    As students of St. Michael’s school, adjoining the District Administration complex, may find it difficult to walk freely on account of the heavy traffic density with most of the government offices all set to shift to the new complex, the authorities have taken up construction of a flyover running from the school to the Church, at a cost of about Rs. 10 lakh. MLC T. John has released Rs.10 lakh out of his Legislator’s fund for its construction.

    In order to secure the building from natural disasters, the Karnataka Housing Board has sent a proposal of Rs.256 lakh to the government for construction of retaining wall at the eastern side of the building facing the Madikeri-Mangalore highway.

    Experts feel that the construction of a retaining wall is vital from the geological point of view, for the protection of the structure from landslips, landslides etc.

    The dreams of the people of Kodagu for a new complex has finally been realised with the new building all set for inauguration by the CM on Nov.3.

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> General News / Friday, October 31st, 2014

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    Madikeri :

    The Karnataka forest department has turned down a Kerala government proposal to build a road through Kodagu forests for a smoother access to Bangalore.

    The decision was taken based on a report submitted by the Kodagu wildlife division’s deputy conservator of forests.

    It’s learnt that the Kerala chief minister had sent in a letter to his Karnataka counterpart, suggesting carving out a road through Mundrotu forests near Talacauvery in the district. In the letter, Oommen Chandy said the distance from Kerala’s Ezhimala in Kannur district to Bangalore through Talacauvery is 376 km, and wanted a 16km stretch from the state boundary to Talacauvery for a comfortable journey.

    Some 43km stretch of the road is in Kerala and the rest in Karnataka.

    The Kodagu wildlife division sent in a report to its headquarters, saying construction of a road through the forests was not desirable as Mundrot forests were home to many wildlife species. Of the planned 16km road, at least 8km stretch was to scythe through the reserve forest, presenting hunters and smugglers a chance to poach trees like rosewood, nandi and jackfruit, among many others.

    The Karnataka forest department nixed the proposal and communicated it to the Kerala chief minister, it’s learnt.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / Home> City> Bangalore> Namma Metro / TNN / October 31st, 2014

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    ‘A case of spending money to benefit contractor, bureaucracy and politicians’

    The following is the text of a talk delivered by Maj. Gen. S.G. Vombatkere (Retd.) at a meeting held at Kodava Samaja, Ponnampet, South Kodagu, on Tuesday, 21st Oct. 2014.


    by Maj. Gen. S.G. Vombatkere (Retd.)

    Sri S. Gopal, dignitaries on the dais, Members of Kaveri Sene and Coorg Wildlife Society, and members of the august audience, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to say a few words about the 400 KV Double Circuit (D/C) HT line connecting Mysore with Kozhikode.

    The 210-km 400 KV Double Circuit HT line connecting Mysore with Kozhikode is under construction by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL). It is said to be required to evacuate electric power generated by Kaiga Nuclear Power Station to supply North Kerala.

    PGCIL claims that of 210-km, about 92-km in Kerala’s Wayanad District and about 63-km in Mysore District is completed, and 55-km through Kodagu District remains to be constructed. This “remaining” portion in Kodagu District is being opposed by the people of Kodagu, spearheaded by Kaveri Sene and Coorg Wildlife Society on grounds of environmental destruction that will adversely affect the Kaveri watershed which is the source of life-giving water to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

    Also it will ruin coffee plantations due to tree-felling and intensify the human-animal conflict especially related to elephants, which is already claiming human lives in Kodagu. The objections of the Kodava people to this project are not new, but are several years old. I will speak on this issue and ask some questions concerning technical, environmental and governance matters.

    Technical questions

    Let us first examine whether this 400KV HT line is at all required. As on date, there are seven HT lines supplying power to Kerala, five from Tamil Nadu and two from Karnataka. These seven lines have a total capacity of 3,000 MW while the share of Kerala from the national grid is only 1,000 MW. Further, although the energy share of Kerala from the national grid is 9,350 Million Units (MU), Kerala is drawing about 11,350 MU from the existing seven HT lines. This shows that the existing seven HT lines are more than adequate for Kerala’s power needs from the national grid, and the proposed 400KV D/C HT line is not at all required.

    Thus the question arises as to why PGCIL has constructed 155-km when the project is not necessary and also when the 55-km segment within Kodagu District is facing objections from the people of Kodagu. The environmental and social costs of the project have obviously not been taken into account.

    Karnataka State officials have deposed before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), stating that the objections of Gram Sabhas are “belated,” “motivated” and are an “after-thought.” These statements are uncalled for, and show the dismissive attitude of officials towards simple people. The objections may be “belated” because village people did not get to know about the PGCIL project earlier. And if the village people are “motivated” in objecting to the project, their motivation is in preserving the environment which is a vital watershed for South India, saving their own coffee plantations which are their livelihood, and trying to mitigate the growing human-elephant conflicts. Thus, the question arises as to why our own officials have this attitude towards projects.

    The 90-paise “disease”

    The fact is that even though all officials are not corrupt, many officials are interested in getting large projects sanctioned and executed because a good portion of every rupee of public money spent does not go towards the project work but gets diverted into private pockets. When Rajiv Gandhi was the PM, he had estimated that 80-paise in the rupee went astray. Now, decades later 90-paise, possibly more, would be seen vanishing if an honest, transparent audit were to be made. When a project is estimated at Rs. X crores, X-crore 90-paise portions vanish. Some people indelicately refer to such standard practice as corruption. But if at least the project was a genuine requirement and was executed with quality and in time, one could still wink at the corrup… oops, sorry, the vanishing 90-paise. And this 400KV HT line is an unnecessary project as has been shown earlier.

    Environment and Governance

    The felling of trees in forest areas and in coffee plantations is harmful to the environment. PGCIL argues that felling a “mere” few thousand trees may not harm the environment. But this argument fails to address the cumulative effect of felling trees for different projects of roads, HT power lines, etc., in the Western Ghats which is an “eco-sensitive hot-spot” in India and even in the international context.

    The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Wildlife (MoEFW) is busy giving clearances to any and every project and weakening the Environment Protection Act. When Article 48A of the Constitution reads, “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife,” this attitude of MoEFW is condemnable.

    The cumulative effect of this deforestation, especially in special regions like the Western Ghats and in particular Kodagu, is not at all a consideration for MoEFW, in the country’s mindless rush towards industrialisation at the cost of environmental destruction.

    Kodagu District is special in two ways. One, its famed soldiers protect our country as a fundamental duty, in accordance with Article 51A(d), to defend the country. And two, its people are saving the source and vital watershed of Kaveri, and performing their fundamental constitutional duty “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife” in accordance with Article 51A(g), doing what MoEFW should be doing but is actually doing the opposite. For all this, we all need to salute the people of Kodagu.

    When the State, consisting of the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary, fails the People, the people have to resist and uphold the Constitution of India. In opposing this 400 KV Double Circuit HT line, we are performing our fundamental constitutional duty. Let us join together to do our duty!

    Jai Hind!

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> Feature Articles / Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

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    If you are looking for a getaway that takes you through green hills, misty clouds and silent paths, Tadiyandamol is for you, says Maya B.

    Imagine walking through the clouds, running your fingers across cold ice crystals, and watching the rains from above the clouds. These are a few soothing moments one can experience from standing at the summit of Tadiyandamol, the second highest peak in Karnataka. Situated in the hilly district of Kodagu, Tadiyandamol is the tallest mountain in the district, with its highest point being 1,748 metres above sea level.

    It is a lesser-known trekkers’ paradise that has fortunately not been commercialised yet.
    The mountain is wide and gigantic, with two peaks, and lies on the Kerala border. Tadiyandamol in Malayalam or Kodava loosely translates to tall hills with a broad base. The best time to start the trek would be early in the morning, around 6 am. It is approximately an eight-km trek, which could be mildly strenuous.

    Adventure enthusiasts can begin the trek at a small waterfall, about half a km from the foothills. A tarmac road leads to the waterfall, and further up, there are no motorable roads. A safer option to park vehicles would be at the Nalaknad Palace.

    “A stream is a nice place to begin and end the trek as the cold water is invigorating,” says Aalok Gokhale, a regular trekker who has scaled Tadiyandamol twice. Trekkers first traverse through a dirt-road, which leads to a fork. Take the road sloping upwards as it passes through a forest area and a couple of streams. On the downside, the stretch is infested with leeches during monsoons.

    Dreamy routes
    And then there is a winding route that leads you into the open. That’s when you get the first glimpse of the mountain you will be climbing, and a complete view of the hills you are surrounded by. The trick is to simply walk in the direction of the peaks. You will come across a huge boulder on the way which is an ideal spot for a break and has the perfect viewpoint.

    Here, the trekkers can choose one peak out of the two. The one on the left is higher than the one on the right. “When hiking to the peak on the right, you can take the route less travelled on, through the grass, or the man-made path. Once you reach the peak, you can see that the path continues to two more viewpoints, and the best view awaits at the end of the range, and it is tranquil,” shares Aalok.

    “When it starts raining, a dreamy mist sets in. You can see clouds moving up the mountain side, towards you, and then finally, you walk through the clouds,” he adds.
    The route to the peak on the left, that is the highest point of the mountain, leads you to a false summit at first and then,unexpectedly, opens up into a dense forest area.

    The path leading to the forested area could be barren or grassy, depending upon the season. There is a natural stair-like formation throughout the mini-jungle which could be very steep at times. Once this tedious journey ends, you are out in the open yet again and the majestic mountain rises in front of you. The ground up the mountain is full of gravel and slippery, so be careful while trekking.

    The summit of the mountain is a wide area which slopes down slightly to culminate in a cliff, and it is breathtaking view from the top. The boulders around could be great for picnics.

    All in all, Tadiyandamol is a wonderful weekend getaway and takes you away from the hectic urban life.

    Single peaks can be covered on the same day, and both the peaks can be trekked in a single day or over a course of two days by camping on the mountain overnight. But trekkers must be wary of elephants, as their dung can be spotted at certain places.

    Ankith Joshi, founder of the travel agency ‘Time to Trawel’, who regularly sends troupes to Tadiyandamol for camping says, “There are several points across the hills where you can pitch tents. But the best would be at the peak as it has a wide base and the experience is thrilling. You can’t enjoy the beauty of the place if you camp elsewhere.”

    Those who prefer warmer accommodation can choose homestays in Kakkabe and Virajpet. The best seasons to visit Tadiyandamol would be mid-monsoon and winter (August-January). During these seasons, the atmosphere is cool and misty, which feels heavenly.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Spectrum / Maya B / DHNS, October 28th, 2014

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    Coffee was once a closely guarded Arabian secret until Baba Budan, a Sufi mystic, smuggled seven beans from Yemen and scattered them on the hills of Chikmagalur, from where it spread to the rest of India…Anurag Mallick and Priya Ganapathy spill the beans on the story of coffee, the world’s most popular brew.

    It was Napoleon Bonaparte who once grandly announced, “I would rather suffer with coffee than be senseless.” Sir James MacKintosh, 18th century philosopher, famously said, “The powers of a man’s mind are directly proportional to the quantity of coffee he drank.” In The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, when T S Eliot revealed, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” he hinted at the monotony of socialising and the coffee mania of the 1900s. German musical genius J S Bach composed the ‘Coffee Cantata’ celebrating the delights of coffee at a time when the brew was prohibited for women.

    “If I couldn’t, three times a day, be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee, in my anguish I will turn into a shriveled-up roast goat,” cried the female protagonist! French author Honoré de Balzac wrote the essay ‘The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee’ to explain his obsession, before dying of caffeine poisoning at 51. Like Voltaire, he supposedly drank 50 cups a day! So, what was it about coffee that inspired poets, musicians and statesmen alike?

    Out of Africa

    Long before coffee houses around the world resounded with intellectual debate, business deals and schmoozing, the ancestors of the nomadic Galla warrior tribes of Ethiopia had been gathering ripe coffee berries, grinding them into a pulp, mixing it with animal fat and rolling them into small balls that were stored in leather bags and consumed during war parties as a convenient solution to hunger and exhaustion! Wine merchant and scientific explorer James Bruce wrote in his book Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile that “One of these balls they (the Gallas) claim will support them for a whole day… better than a loaf of bread or a meal of meat, because it cheers their spirits as well as feeds them”. Other African tribes cooked the berries as porridge or drank a wine prepared from the fermented fruit and skin blended in cold water.

    Historically, the origins of the coffee bean, though undated, lie in the indigenous trees that once grew wild in the Ethiopian highlands of East Africa. Stories of its invigorating qualities began to waft in the winds of trade towards Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East, Persia and Turkey by the 16th Century. The chronicles of Venetian traveller Gianfrancesco Morosini at the coffee houses of Constantinople in 1585 provided Europeans with one of the foremost written records of coffee drinking. He noted how the people ‘are in the habit of drinking in public in shops and in the streets — a black liquid, boiling as they can stand it, which is extracted from a seed they call Caveè… and is said to have the property of keeping a man awake.’

    It was only a matter of time before the exotic flavours of this intoxicating beverage captured the imagination of Europe, prompting colonial powers like the Dutch, French and the British to spread its cultivation in the East Indies and the Americas. Enterprising Dutch traders explored coffee cultivation and trading way back in 1614 and two years later, a coffee plant was smuggled from Mocha to Holland. By 1658, the Dutch commenced coffee cultivation in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The word ‘coffee’ is apparently derived from qahwah (or kahveh in Turkish), the Arabic term for wine. Both the terms bear uncanny similarity to present day expressions — French café, Italian caffè, English coffee, Dutch koffie or even our very own South Indian kaapi. A few scholars attribute ‘coffee’ to its African origins and the town of Kaffa in Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia. However, the plant owes its name “Coffea Arabica” to Arabia, for it was the Arabs who introduced it to the rest of the world via trade.

    As all stories of good brews go, coffee too was discovered by accident. Legends recount how sometime around the 6th or 7th century, Kaldi, an Ethiopian goatherd, observed that his goats became rather spirited and pranced after they chewed on some red berries growing in wild bushes. He tried a few berries and felt a similar euphoria. Excited by its effects, Kaldi clutched a handful of berries and ran to a nearby monastery to share his discovery with a monk. When the monk pooh-poohed its benefits and flung the berries into the fire, an irresistible intense aroma rose from the flames. The roasted beans were quickly salvaged from the embers, powdered and stirred in hot water to yield the first cup of pure coffee! This story finds mention in what is considered to be one of the earliest treatises on coffee, De Saluberrima Cahue seu Café nuncupata Discurscus, written by Antoine Faustus Nairon, a Roman professor of Oriental languages, published in 1671.

    Flavours from Arabia

    Coffee drinking has also been documented in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen in South Arabia. Arabic manuscripts dating back to the 10th Century mention the use of coffee. Mocha, the main port city of Yemen, was a major marketplace for coffee in the 15th century. Even today, the term ‘mocha’ is synonymous with good coffee. Like tea and cocoa, coffee was a precious commodity that brought in plenty of revenue. Hence, it remained a closely guarded secret in the Arab world. The berries were forbidden to leave the country unless they had been steeped in boiling water or scorched to prevent its germination on other lands.

    In 1453, the Ottoman Turks brought coffee to Constantinople, and the world’s first coffee shop Kiva Han opened for business. As its popularity grew, coffee also faced other threats. The psychoactive and intoxicating effects of caffeine lured menfolk to spend hours at public coffee houses drinking the brew and smoking hookahs, which incited the wrath of orthodox imams of Mecca and Cairo. As per sharia law, a ban was imposed on coffee consumption in 1511. The Grand Mufti Mehmet Ebussuud el Imadi was hailed when he issued a fatwa allowing the consumption of coffee, by order of the Ottoman Turkish Sultan Selim I in 1524.

    Though subsequent bans were re-imposed and lifted at various points of time according to the whims of religious politics and power, coffee pots managed to stay constantly on the boil in secret, or in the open, for those desirous of its potent influence. Given the fact that Sufi saints advocated its uses in night-time devotions and dervishes and Pope Clement VIII even baptised the bean to ward off the ill-effects of what was regarded by the Vatican as ‘Satan’s drink’ and the ‘Devil’s Mixture of the Islamic Infidels’ till the 1500s, it is easy to see why coffee is nothing short of a religion to some people.

    Coffee enters India & beyond

    Surprisingly, India’s saga with coffee began in 1670 when a Muslim mystic, Hazrat Dada Hyat Mir Qalandar, popularly known as Baba Budan, smuggled seven beans from Arabia and planted them on a hillock in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The hills were later named Baba Budan Giri in his memory. From here, coffee spread like bushfire across the hilly tracts of South India.

    In 1696, Adrian van Ommen, the Commander at Malabar, followed orders from Amsterdam and sent off a shipment of coffee plants from Kannur to the island of Java. The plants did not survive due to an earthquake and flood but the Dutch pursued their dream of growing coffee in the East Indies with another import from Malabar. In 1706, the Dutch succeeded and sent the first samples of Java coffee to Amsterdam’s botanical gardens from where it made further inroads into private conservatories across Europe. Not wishing to be left behind, the French began negotiating with Amsterdam to lay their hands on a coffee tree that could change their fortunes. In 1714, a plant was sent to Louis XIV who gave it promptly to the Jardin des Plantes at Paris for experimentation. The same tree became the propagator of most of the coffees in the French colonies, including those of South America, Central America and Mexico.

    The importance of coffee in everyday life can be gauged by the fact that its yield forms the economic mainstay of several countries across the world; its monetary worth among natural commodities beaten only by oil! It was only in 1840 that the British got into coffee cultivation in India and spread it beyond the domain of the Baba Budan hills.

    Arabica vs Robusta

    Kodagu and Chikmagalur are undoubtedly the best places to know your Arabica from your Robusta and any planter worth his beans will trace coffee’s glorious history with pride. The strain that Baba Budan got was Coffea arabica and because of its arid origins, it thrived on late rainfall. Despite its rich taste and pleasing aroma, the effort required to cultivate it dented its popularity. The high-altitude shrub required a lot of tending, was susceptible to pests, and ripe Arabica cherries tended to fall off and rot. Careful monitoring at regular intervals affected production cost and profitability.

    Till 1850, Arabica was the most sought-after coffee bean in the world and the discovery of Robusta in Belgian Congo did little to change that. Robusta (Coffea canephora), recognised as a species of coffee only as recently as 1897, lived up to its name. Its broad leaves handled heavy rainfall much better and the robust plant was more disease-resistant. The cherries required less care as they remained on the tree even after ripening. Its beans had twice the caffeine of Arabica, though less flavour, which was no match for the intense Arabica. It was perceived as so bland that the New York Coffee Exchange banned Robusta trade in 1912, calling it ‘a practically worthless bean’!

    But in today’s new market economy, the inexpensive Robusta makes more commercial sense and is favoured for its good blending quality. Chicory, a root extract, was an additive that was introduced during the Great Depression to combat economic crisis that affected coffee. It added more body to the coffee grounds and enhanced the taste of coffee with a dash of bitterness. Though over 30 species of coffee are found in the world, Arabica and Robusta constitute the major chunk of commercial beans in the world. ‘Filter kaapi’ or coffee blended with chicory holds a huge chunk of the Indian market. Plantations started with Arabica, toyed with Liberica, experimented with monkey parchment and even Civet Cat coffee (like the Indonesian Luwak Kopi — the finest berries eaten by the civet cat that acquire a unique flavour after passing through its intestinal tract), but the bulk of India’s coffee is Robusta.

    As the coffee beans found their way from the hilly slopes of the Western Ghats to the ports on India’s Western Coast to be shipped to Europe, a strange thing happened. While being transported by sea during the monsoon months, the humidity and winds caused the green coffee beans to ripen to a pale yellow. The beans would swell up and lose the original acidity, resulting in a smooth brew that was milder. This characteristic mellowing was called ‘monsooning’. And thus was born Monsooned Malabar Coffee.

    Kodagu, India’s Coffee County

    Currently, Coorg is the largest coffee-growing district in India, and contributes 80% of Karnataka’s coffee export. It was Captain Lehardy, first Superintendent of Kodagu, who was responsible for promoting coffee cultivation in Coorg. Jungles were cleared and coffee plantations were started. In 1854, Mr Fowler, the first European planter to set foot in Coorg, started the first estate in Madikeri, followed by Mr Fennel’s Wooligoly Estate near Sunticoppa. The next year, one more estate in Madikeri was set up by Mr Mann. In 1856, Mr Maxwell and Mcpherson followed, with the Balecadoo estate. Soon, 70,000 acres of land had been planted with coffee. A Planters Association came into existence as early as 1863, which even proposed starting a Tonga Dak Company for communication. By 1870, there were 134 British-owned estates in Kodagu.

    Braving ghat roads, torrid monsoons, wild elephants, bloodthirsty leeches, hard plantation life and diseases like malaria, many English planters made Coorg their temporary home. Perhaps no account of Coorg can be complete without mentioning Ivor Bull. Along with District Magistrate Dewan Bahadur Ketolira Chengappa, the enterprising English planter helped set up the Indian Coffee Cess Committee in 1920s and enabled all British-run estates to form a private consortium called Consolidated Coffee. In 1936, the Indian Cess Committee aided the creation of the Indian Coffee Board and sparked the birth of the celebrated India Coffee House chain, later run by worker co-operatives. With its liveried staff and old world charm, it spawned a coffee revolution across the subcontinent that has lasted for decades.

    Connoisseurs say Coorg’s shade grown coffee has the perfect aroma; others ascribe its unique taste to the climatic conditions and a phenomenon called Blossom Showers, the light rain in April that triggers the flowering of plants. The burst of snowy white coffee blossoms rends the air thick with a sensual jasmine-like fragrance. Soon, they sprout into green berries that turn ruby red and finally dark maroon when fully ripe. This is followed by the coffee-picking season where farm hands pluck the berries, sort them and measure the sacks at the end of the day under the watchful eye of the estate manager.

    The berries are dried in the sun till their outer layers wither away; coffee in this form is called ‘native’ or parchment. The red berries are taken to a Pulp House, usually near a water source, where they are pulped. After the curing process, the coffee bean is roasted and ground and eventually makes its journey to its final destination — a steaming cup of bittersweet brew that you hold in your hands.

    The ‘kaapi’ trail

    In India, coffee cultivation is concentrated around the Western Ghats, which forms the lifeline for this shrub. The districts of Coorg, Chikmagalur and Hassan in Karnataka, the Malabar region of Kerala, and the hill slopes of Nilgiris, Yercaud, Valparai and Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu account for the bulk of India’s coffee produce. With 3,20,000 MT each year, India is the 6th largest coffee producer in the world.

    Recent initiatives to increase coffee consumption in the international and domestic market prompted the Coffee Board, the Bangalore International Airport and tour operator Thomas Cook to come together and organize coffee festivals and unique holiday packages like The Kaapi Trail to showcase premium coffees of South India. Coffee growing regions like Coorg, Chikmagalur, B R Hills, Araku Valley, Nilgiris, Shevaroy Hills, Travancore, Nelliyampathy and Palani Hills are involved in a tourism project that blends leisure, adventure, heritage and plantation life.

    At the Coffee Museum in Chikmagalur, visitors can trace the entire lifecycle of coffee from berry to cup. In Coorg and Malnad, besides homestays, go on Coffee Estate holidays with Tata’s Plantation Trails at lovely bungalows like Arabidacool, Woshully and Thaneerhulla…
    The perfect cuppa

    Making a good cup of filter coffee traditionally involves loading freshly ground coffee in the upper perforated section of a coffee filter. About 2 tbs heaps can serve 6 cups. Hot water is poured over the stemmed disc and the lid is covered and left to stand. The decoction collected through a natural dripping process takes about 45 minutes and gradually releases the coffee oils and soluble coffee compounds. South Indian brews are stronger than the Western drip-style coffee because of the chicory content. Mix 2-3 tbs of decoction with sugar, add hot milk to the whole mixture and blend it by pouring it back and forth between two containers to aerate the brew.

    Some places and brands of coffee have etched a name for themselves in the world of coffee for the manner in which coffee is made. The strength of South Indian Filter coffee or kaapi (traditionally served in a tumbler and bowl to cool it down), the purity of Kumbakonam Degree Coffee, the skill of local baristas in preparing Ribbon or Metre coffee by stretching the stream of coffee between two containers without spilling a drop… have all contributed to the evolution of coffee preparation into an art form.

    With coffee bars and cafes flooding the market and big names like Starbucks, Costa, Barista, Gloria Jean’s, The Coffee Bean, Tim Horton’s and Café Coffee Day filling the lanes and malls in India along with local coffee joints like Hatti Kaapi jostling for space, it’s hard to escape the tantalising aroma of freshly brewed coffee. And to add more drama to the complexities of coffee, you can choose from a host of speciality coffees from your backyard — Indian Kathlekhan Superior and Mysore Nuggets Extra Bold, or faraway lands — Irish coffee and cappuccino (from the colour of the cloaks of the Capuchin monks in Italy) or Costa Rican Tarrazu, Colombian Supremo, Ethiopian Sidamo and Guatemala Antigua. And you can customise it as espresso, latte, mocha, mochachino, macchiato, decaf… Coffee is just not the same simple thing that the dancing goats of Ethiopia once enjoyed.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Sunday Herald / September 21st, 2014

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