Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Hogenakkal Falls - the smoking rocks
The Cauvery River may be the bone of contention between politicians, but oblivious to all these earthly squabbles, the river passes though some of the most picturesque regions in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in South India.
Hogenakkal Falls is one such place. It is the finest waterfall in Tamil Nadu and one of those places which should not be missed.
The Kannada word Hogenakkal, which means ‘smoking rock’, describes the real ambience.
Here, the Cauvery river flows through a wooded valley, splitting and merging around rocks, and splitting again. The river passes little islands with tall trees, and traverses boulder-strewn out crops which are covered with water only during the monsoons when the river is in spate.
Here, the River enters the plains, hurtling down the rocks and boulders. The main attraction of the falls is the vertical drop of the river from a height of 20 metres with a roaring sound. And it appears that smoke is rising upwards from the river below. You can hear the thundering sound for miles around.
You will see people floating in the river in queer saucer shaped contraptions. These are coracles, the traditional boats, used by the locals for the past several centuries.The coracle is a saucer shaped boat made of bamboos and covered with buffalo hide. The modern coracles are made of steel frame work covered with synthetic material.
These boats look flimsy and give the impression that they would over turn at the slightest obstacle.
But inspite of their design which has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the use of some modern materials for construction, they are surprisingly sturdy.
I had visited Hogenakkal in 1993. My driver asked me not to go into the river. I asked him why?
He explained that once a number of crocodiles surrounded a coracle and demanded a human sacrifice. Only when the inmates threw a baby to them did the crocodiles go away.Sheer nonsense! The fact is there is not a single crocodile in the river. The fishermen regularly use nets for fishing.
Take a ride in the coracle. The owner will take you over the rapids and into the roaring falls. It’s a thrilling experience.
You will cross people catching fish in the river. You will also see the imps diving from the rocks into the river below.
Hogenakkal is a natural riverside spa. The water contains dissolved salts. It is believed that bathing here can cure several diseases. Over the centuries, Hogenakkal has become a sacred bathing place, famous for its curative powers.
The Oil Massage
A causeway joins some of the islands. You will find the malishkarans, the indigenous masseurs, massaging their customers. They use herbal oils, some mysterious powder (whose formulation they will not reveal) and knowledge of the fourteen massage points in the human body. They seat their customers on slabs of rock and work rather too vigorously.
After the massage, the customers go to the bathing cubicles and stand under cascades of Cauvery water hurtling down.
The oil message followed by a real washing down is exhilerating.
The Crocodile Breeding Centre
There is a crocodile breeding farm in Hogenakkal.
Crocodiles are bred here so that they can be released in the wild. But the fact is that crocodiles breed much too fast. Finding a safe place to release them is a serious problem.
A large weekly fair is held in the nearby village of Pennagaram. You can see the local people, the local products and witness the local way of life.
The nearest airport is Bangalore - 130 kms.
The nearest rail head is Bangalore
Hogenakkal is 133 km from Bangalore towards Salem (and 25 km from Dharmapuri).
Tourist taxis and buses regularly ply between Bangalore and Hogenakkal. It is a two and a half hour drive to the falls. The road is good.
The road route is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to the falls.
The surrounding mountains and the rugged scenery have made Hogenakkal Falls one of the most beautiful places in the state. It is a good Picnic spot. Because of its nearness to Bangalore, there are few places to stay.There is a guesthouse belonging to the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation.