TREKKING: THE CALL OF MALETHIRKE BELLS IN COORG
By Mandepanda Savitha Poovaiah
There are many trekking trails in Coorg. Among them one of the most scenic trails is to the Malethirke temple located at Karada-Palangala village, 15 km from Virajpet, bordering the states of Kerala and Karnataka.
Malethirike temple stands tall welcoming the devotees and trekkers with its scenic beauty, located in the Somagiri peak enveloped by tall trees and coffee plantations.
Vehicles can be driven to the hill top. The distance from Virajpet to Karada temple entrance arch is 15 km, and from there to the temple top is another 5 km. Though I am considered as a local person with my coffee plantation in the foot of the mountain, I had never visited the temple during rainy season due to bad weather conditions and also due to the fear of trees falling across the road.
If you are lucky, you can even see wild elephants, or at least the fresh dung which keeps you alert throughout the journey along the slippery road. A trek up the hill winds its way through forest and amazing landscapes and also the clouds hovering in the sky.
You can experience magnificent views of the surroundings with greenery and grass land and also feel the sky touching the hill. The drive up the hill is challenging with number of curves and steep hill. On reaching the vicinity of the temple, the land is flat and tranquil. One tends to forget the long drive up the hill. At a distance inside a dark area, you could see lamps lighted at the worshiping place. As you go further, you find five fresh water ponds which never get dried up during the summer.
Unlike the other temples, there is no temple building as such. Under the canopy of trees, five Shiva Lingams are prominently seen where the Pandavas were believed to have prayed during their exile. Plenty of bells hang around the shrine offered by the devotees.
It is being said that during the construction of St Annes Church at Virajpet, the architect was advised to offer a bell to the temple on account of the continuous collapsing of the upper tapering part of the church. Once the bell was offered to the temple, the church construction went off smoothly, it is believed. Even now devotees during their difficult times take vows and offer bells to the temple which are hanging around in hundreds.
And the lord is referred to as ‘Thambaran’. The temple priest treks to the place daily from the foothill to perform his duty. Many a times, he is alone, but the rituals never fail – taking bath in the chilling water, performing pooja, preparing payasam (sweet dish) which is a must for Lord Shiva. Visitors to the shrine will be served with the payasam. The temple is closed in the night. And the only time when the temple is open in the night is during the annual festival.
NOTE: This Malethirke temple should not be confused with another temple by the same name, atop a hillock overlooking Virajpet town.
About the author:
Mandepanda Savitha Poovaiah is a well-known wildlife photographer who is also known for her culinary skills. Married to Mandepanda Sujai Poovaiah, she has two daughters.