I was mostly unaware of the natural beauty of Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka until my marriage to Veena who hails from Sonda. Since then I have done quite a few visits to Sonda and visited numerous places around it and amazed by the tourist potential (still not fully tapped though) of this green district.
Sonda is small little village in the Sirsi taluk of Uttara Kannada district situated at a distance of around 450km from Bangalore and 20km from Sirsi. It is mostly known as a pilgrimage center due to the presence of three prominent Mutts: the Swarnavalli Mutt, the Vadiraj Mutt and the Jain Mutt. These attract hundreds of pilgrims mostly through out the year. The green surroundings, typical to the Malnad area of Sonda and Sirsi add to the serenity of these places of religious importance.
Here are some of the places I have visited around Sonda, Sirsi, since last 3 years. Please note that all distances mentioned here are mostly approximate.
Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi
Muttinakere Venkataramana Temple
Hunasehonda Venkataramana Temple
Mundige Kere Bird Sanctuary
Banavasi, which was once the capital of Kadamba rulers is situated at around 20km from Sirsi. The village road from Sirsi to Banavasi is very picturesque with green fields all round. There are a few sugarcane fields also which set up the traditional sugarcane crushing units for preparing jaggery (called Aalemane in Kannada) during Jan-Feb. If you are here during this time, you would want to stop by one of these places. You would be offered generous quantities of sugarcane juice straight out of Aalemane. One should taste this know how this differs from the cane juice available in the cities.
The 9th Century Madhukeshwara temple of Banavasi is dedicated to Shiva. It is a fairly big temple and is well protected.
Madhukeshwara Temple, Banavasi
The ornate pillars add to the beauty of the temple. Just outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, a stone structure is placed which looks like a throne or a couch.
There is a beautiful bull (Nandi) in front of Shiva but interestingly it appears to be watching Parvati who is present in the adjoining temple.
The temple campus has many beautiful stone idols of Gods and Goddesses.
River Shalmala flows quite close to my in-laws house in Sonda. I have to just cross a few arecanut farms and paddy fields to reach the well known pilgrimage center in the river Shalmala called Sahasralinga. The place gets its name from the numerous (Sahasra = thousand) Lingas carved on the rocks of Shalmala river. Lingas with Nandi of all shapes and sizes can be seen here, some of them dislodged due to the force of water flow. It is better to visit this place when the water level is low when all the Lingas become visible.
Sahasralinga, is approachable from Hulgol, on Sirsi-Yellapur road at around 15km from Sirsi. This place becomes a center of activity on Mahashivaratri day when people throng here to offer Pooja.
Magod waterfall is formed by river Bedti which falls in two steps forming two falls. Though one could use an interior village route (Sonda – Upleshwara Cross – Magod Road – Magod Waterfall) to reach this waterfall from Sonda, the ideal way to reach this is from Yellapur which is around 50km from Sirsi. After traveling on NH63 from Yellapur for around 5km towards Ankola, there is a deviation on the left which goes to Magod Waterfall. The waterfall is around 15km from here. The road is reasonably well maintained and one can drive up the falls in a 4 wheeler.
Magod Waterfall (Sept)
Magod waterfall is visible at some distance from the viewpoint in the valley. From here, it is not possible to reach the base of the waterfall.
Magod Waterfall (June)
A nearby place to visit along with Magod waterfall is the Jenukallu gudda viewpoint from where River Kali is visible.
View from Jenukallu
If you take the interior road from Sonda to Magod waterfall via Upleshwara, you could visit the Kavdekere en route which has a big lake and a temple.
River Aghanashini forms a spectacular waterfall called Unchalli waterfall in a deep jungle. To reach this waterfall, start from Sirsi on Sirsi – Kumta road and reach Aminhalli (around 14km). From here a left deviation leads to a village called Heggarne (around 19km from Aminhalli). The road is decent until Heggarne. From Heggarne one has to travel around 2-3km on a jeep track to reach the viewpoint of the waterfall. This last stretch is distance is best done in a hired vehicle or by walk.
From the viewpoint the falls is visible at a distance. Steps have been built from here to another viewpoint still down the valley which is built directly opposite the waterfall. The water flows down at a great force raising up a cloud of water drops that could easily drench anyone at the viewpoint. It is common to find leeches in this area. Again one can’t reach the base of the waterfall from this viewpoint easily.
Visit to Unchalli waterfall can be clubbed with a visit to Benne HoLe waterfall which is approachable from a village called Nilkunda, around 14km from Heggarne. From Nilkunda one has to walk around 2km and descend down a valley to reach the waterfall. We tried doing this in September and were unsuccessful. The descent down the valley was so difficult and full of leeches that Veena and I got lost halfway, while the rest of the group went down. With so many leeches around, we had no option but to rush uphill. So no photos of this waterfall😦
Satoddi waterfall is formed by River Kali(or may its tributary) and is situated in Yellapur district. To reach this, start on Yellapur-Hubli highway (NH63), proceed around 2-3km and take a left turn into what is called Bisgod road. From here, proceed around 20-25km to reach a place called Kattige which has a Ganesha Temple. From Kattige Ganesha temple it is around 8-10km of jeep track to the waterfall.
I visited this waterfall with my brother-in-law in September in a motorbike and it needed all the village-riding skills of my brother-in-law to negotiate the final few kilometers of slushy road. Even walking would on this road would be difficult with so much of slush all around. But all the effort is worth as this is one of the waterfalls whose base can be easily approached.
This waterfall is present upstream after the backwaters of the Kodasalli dam.
Backwaters of Kodasalli dam
Sonda was once a royal city ruled by Swadi Kings and one can still see some of the remains at various places around Sonda. One such place is the Sonda Kote which is present on the banks of River Shalmala. Though it is called Kote, I couldn’t find any fort here. It looks more like a place where some royal remains have been protected by ASI. A small temple, a few cannons and a decorated single stone Kallina Mancha (Stone Cot) are preserved here.
View at Sonda Kote
Kallina Mancha at Sonda Kote
Muttinakere is a small lake in Vaja Gadde area of Sonda. Alongside this lake is a small but beautiful 17th Venkataramana temple built in Vijayanagara style. This temple has been renovated and is well maintained. A visit to this temple is worth if you are in Sonda. Daily pooja is performed here.
Carvings on temple wall
An abondoned temple near Muttinakere
This is another small temple present in Sonda dedicated to Venkataramana. To reach this temple, from Kamatgeri in Sonda, proceed towards Sirsi for around 1km and take a left deviation and proceed another 1km on the un-asphalted road. There is a lake alongside the temple. The carvings on the temple walls are interesting. Daily pooja is performed in this temple.
This waterfall is formed by River Shalmala (As far as I know). The approach to this waterfall is from a place called Hulekal, which is around 13km from Sirsi towards Sonda and 5km from Sonda towards Sirsi. From Hulekal, take the Jaddigadde road and travel for around 25km to reach Jaddigadde. From here it is around 2-3km on a Jeep track which is best negotiated by walk or a two wheeler.
A viewpoint has been built from where the waterfall is visible at a distance. Me and my Uncle tried to descend down the valley to get closer to the falls but after a while found it too hard to negotiate the thick forest growth in the monsoon season. So had to return satisfied by the long-distance view of the waterfall.
There is a small lake called Mundige Kere in Sonda which attracts hundreds of birds (mostly Cranes as per my very limited knowledge about birds) in June. I am not sure if this can be called a sanctuary, but is definitely a place is worth visiting when you in Sonda and have some time to spare. From Kamatgeri in Sonda, proceed a few yards towards Yellapur and take a right deviation near Kasapal primary school and proceed a 1km further.
Yana has become a very popular tourist spot now with hundreds visiting it in the weekends. So no more details except for a few photographs.
Rocks of Yana
– with inputs from Veena Bhat, Vinayak Bhat, M S Bhat and Krishnamoorthy Bhat.