KUDAJADRI – THE FOREST THAT BELONGS TO ADI SHANKARACHARYA
A mountain peak in which a saint from the southernmost state of India traveled all the way in the 8th century, meditated there, was blessed by the appearance of a Goddess in front of him at the end of it, attained excellence in wisdom, and made memorabilia for the same, walked all the way with the Goddess to his native place. This peak is still the favorite of many people to visit the Sarvanja peetha where the saint has been built and a cave known as Chithramoola cave little further away. One of the holy rivers of this state namely sowparnika also part of this Kudajadri from where it originates. The famous Mookambika temple is also connected to this place which is the base station from where most of the people start their journey to this serene location.
This is about Adi Shankara, the scholar who traveled the length and breadth of India around 1200 years ago with preaching Adwaita Vedanta and one of the most beautiful peaks in south India namely Kudajadri. Kudajadri is a scenic place situated in the Shimoga district of Karnataka state lying on the slope of the western ghats. It is the 13th highest peak which is around 147 km from Mangalore and 315 km from Bangalore. Most of the people who visit this place are those coming after Goddess Mookambika Devi’s darshan.
MOOKAMBIKA DEVI TEMPLE – ON THE FOOT HILLS OF KUDAJADRI
A visit to this place also becomes memorable for the off-road jeep ride to reach 2km away from Sarvanja peetha, where Adi Shankara has meditated and got enlightenment, and Chithramoola around 500 mts further from Sarvanja peeth which is Sowparnika river’s starting area. The long walk of two kilometers to visit Sarvanja Peetha is one of the memorable parts of the Kudajadri trip. And if not for the jeep ride this is a perfect place for trekkers too and a lot of people are used to visiting Kudajadri for the same.
It was still early morning when I came out after the darshan of Goddess Mookambika Devi and the Kudajadri hills illuminated with golden rays of the rising sun lying as a backdrop of the temple had been one of the most pleasant views outside. The combination of the Temple and hills seemed to be complimenting each other for the divinities each place has on its own.
As I walked down, the usually busy street where jeeps are lined and waiting for their turn to get 8 passengers to Kudajadri was relatively empty. Kudajadri, one of the Karnataka government’s heritage sites was not on our itinerary but the invitation from a driver to fill the vacant spaces in his jeep turns out to be our time to visit the place where Adi Shankara made meditation and got his enlightenment.
EXPERIENCE THE BUMPY RIDE
The distance from Kollur to the place the jeep reaches is approximately 30 km and most of the jeeps will halt for a few minutes in a small junction for breakfast, refreshments, etc. It was breakfast time, and we had some food and then proceeded to the base location for hiking to Sarvanja peetha and Chithramoola which was around 10 kilometers approximately. The further journey after a while after crossing a forest check post was a type of ride experienced for the first time known as an off-road drive which only some expert drivers can manage, the reason why only the local jeeps are allowed to ply on this route.
The road – if we can call it so – was bumpy with no particular width or profile or level or gradient in any direction. Steep curves that turn out to be hairpin bends made to cover the ascend over the hill looked very risky for us at many locations, whereas the drivers were cool though. The travel through the artificial path formed on the ground due to the daily movement of jeeps with bump-like areas on both sides was fun as well as dangerous. The natural beauty on both sides was something that cannot be missed but may not be enjoyable too as it was hard to leave the attention given for holding on to the seat from moving out of the seat due to inconsistent road section for the entire stretch.
A PLACE FAMOUS FOR TREKKING TOO
No wonder then, as this place is famous for people who love to trek. Trekking to Kudajadri through two popular routes becomes a double delight for such people because of the matchless stunning beauty offered by nature. Streams and a beautiful waterfall on the way are valuable addition too to enjoyment during the trek.
The offroad journey of around 7-10 km was extreme, to say the least, and was satisfying too from another perspective by experiencing a journey in such an uneven, indifferent road profile on a hill that climbed several feet up. Though some metalling work was initiated to level the road to an extent but put on hold by the authority due to some resistance from the local drivers that seemed to be a blessing so we were lucky to experience such a trip.
The jeep ride ended up in a small parking area in a place namely Valuru which is known as Moolasthanam of Goddess Mookambika Devi having three individual temples and a priest’s house. From here it is another 1.5 to 2kms of hiking through one of the most splendid locations of the south where greenery, forests, valleys, sky, and clouds intermingle with divinity and peace to have an experience of a lifetime for any traveler who is lucky to be here.
A visit to this temple is not mandatory but, in a place, where Goddess Mookambika Devis’ presence was believed to exist, then it was an automatic choice to have darshan and do some pooja on the three temples for Z before the long walk or trek towards Sarvanja peetha.
EXPERIENCE NATURE IN ITS PUREST FORM
Soon after a few minutes of walking through some rough areas, the path had a U-turn curve and as we covered it and reached the other side of the hill, the whole area appeared like an entirely different world that was no match for the place left few minutes before where the temple was or the base station. The peacefulness of the place, the cool ambiance, and the vast expanse of lovely greenery, with white clouds that looked to be moving forward in the backdrop of clear blue sky, has infused some potential energy for climbing up the hike towards those historically as well as mythologically important locations within the western ghat.
The marvelous ghats of different sizes and shapes which were mostly covered in fog and sometimes visible with a waterbody far away were pure bliss to enjoy nature in its perfect un-adultered condition. The changing view after every few steps or meters made the hiking as refreshed as it started. The long walk was never tiring despite the sun rays was hot and made uneasiness in between, but there was something to enjoy in each moment providing everyone many pictures of a beautiful portrait of this magnificent landscape as we moved on.
While it had been practically tough to enjoy the real beauty of this serene and scenic location during the off-road trip in the jeep, instead here it gave a choice for us to appreciate the different geographical features of the 13th highest peak of the western ghat by spending as much time provided returning to the jeep within the time allowed. It looked like the scenery was such that photos from even an ordinary mobile camera will get you a high-quality pixel portrait.
As the scenes kept changing every now and then so did the track that we were walking to. From a steep hike to a vast open area to a narrow path where the valley is just a few meters away on the side to make out a track through the woods requiring special effort to cross the fallen trees and such made the walk quite interesting and fun. Finally, at a faraway place, a small hut-like area with stone pillars was visible that were black in color where Adi Shankara meditated and believed to be gotten enlightenment dating as back to in 9th century.
SARVANJA PEETHA – AN 8TH-CENTURY CREATION INSIDE A FOREST
We arrived at the location which is known as Sarvanja peetha which looks like a small temple or maybe precisely a temple, a temple of knowledge. A tiny building with black stones having two pillars outside facing the path we were walking standing alone inside the remote area within these hills made it looks like something special being the only structure in the ghat which is not provided by nature. First time after started the trekking we were in a crowded place, as many people occupied the available spaces in this small temple. Few were sitting in the open area and the small opening to the room looked congested with people trying to enter and exit. Selfies and photoshoots too were happening at different locations of a place which is believed to be made in the 8th century by Adi Shankara.
Adi Shankara was a cultural icon or a monk from south India who lived in the 9th century and is famous as the founder of Adwaita Vedanta. From the southernmost state of Kerala where he was born, he traversed too many parts of India spreading the essence of Hinduism. From the south, he traveled all the way to the northernmost place of India, ie Srinagar of Jammu Kashmir where a temple in his name still exists which is basically Lord Shiva where he had been on his long spiritual journey. He was believed to be defeated many scholars in philosophical debate there and opened the southern door of the temple. Then he made his presence in another part which is one of the toughest terrains and has severe climatic adversities the place on Himalayas mountains – even in the 21st century – namely Badrinath and Kedarnath. As per the history books Adi Shankara left to abode from Kedarnath, in the memory of which a statue of him has been recently installed in the Kedarnath temple.
RELAX & SELF REALIZE THE VALUE OF ATTAINING KNOWLEDGE
After walking around the temple, we waited a few minutes for some people to leave so that it would be helpful to experience the Sarvanja peetha, the place of knowledge with some peace and calm atmosphere. The wait was worth too as sitting on the stones outside after a quick look inside the temple felt like a learning experience that acquiring knowledge is not an easy task by thinking about the struggle for Adi Shankara to reach here many thousand years ago for getting his enlightenment. The difficulty in trekking through the peaks to reach here was also a reminder to all that there are no shortcuts but the path to attain knowledge remains always difficult.
Sitting on the temple floor and a quick look around has no comparison to the world where ordinary human beings spend their day-to-day life or being in a place, where nature has been preserving its original size and shape except for human being’s presence to visit this historically important location gave a surreal experience, especially due to the fact that this has been constructed in 8th century.
TREKK FURTHER AND FIND THE CHITRAMOOLA CAVE
Walking further 500 meters or so through a more congested pathway with thick forest will reach another holy place inside Kudajadri hills known as Chithramoola cave which is also known as Shankaracharya temple. Mookambika temple is visible from here and this is also the place from where the river sowparnika originates. A few water passages are around the cave and a beautiful waterfall is nearby. The different sceneries offered by nature in these western ghats were so marvelous that would remain in the memory for quite a long time.
This cave is also connected to the life of Adi Shankara’s expedition in the western ghats in the 9th century. It is believed that he had meditated and done penance in the Chithramoola cave and Shri Mookambika devi appeared before him there. The cave is above ground level, and some effort is required by climbing up the ladder for entering the cave. Experiencing such a cave which consists of a Shiva Idol was another moment in the trip life to cherish forever.
While walking back with some beautiful and divinely blended memories of this location, one thing amused me a lot like many others might. How a young fellow Shankaracharya in his youth was able to find this location in the eighth century and constructed the Sarvanja peetha. As it was written in some books, we need to believe too when their contribution from him to the Indian religions space was so immense through his works in his short span of life of 39 years.
Watching endless terrains of hills at different heights covered in mist on one side and greenish and bare hills on the other side between which a plain walkway through we returned to the parking area after visiting the place where Adi Shankara has got enlightenment was something that would remain in the memory forever which can be remembered without seeing any photographs taken during the journey.