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Deccan Herald » Sunday Herald » Detailed Story
Nee kudiyuva neer Kaaveri
Vikram Sampath
Sunday Herald captures the varied moods of Cauvery river as it flows from its origin in Karnataka to the rich delta region of Tamil Nadu.
The descent and flow of the Cauvery from the picturesque Coorg to the Mysore plateau is undoubtedly the most queenly part of her journey - a journey that has seen the rise and fall of numerous empires and is a veritable lifeline for the people here.

The cluster of hills from Madikeri leads her down from a narrow gorge in a delightful tumble into the rapids of Chunchanakatte with a marked gain in size and speed. As if stopping the girlish frolic of the adolescent river as she joyously enters the plateau regions of Karnataka, is the famous Krishnaraja Sagara Dam near Mysore. Here the Cauvery is joined by her lesser known sisters - the tributaries of Hemavathy and Lakshmanatirtha. The boost from her siblings seems to swell the feminine energy of the dammed river and the combined force finds its beautiful expression in the world famous Brindavan Gardens.

She then bypasses the historic town of Mysore - a city replete with a glorious past and tradition. The Cauvery seems like a silent spectator to the rise and fall of the Mysore kingdom. She conceals in her womb many secrets like the supposed curse of the wife of a defeated Vijayanagara Viceory, Rani Alamelamma, in the 17th Century, who ended her life in those dark waters near historic Talakad when persecuted by the then Maharaja of Mysore. Carrying the burden of history along, the holy river bifurcates for the first time in her 320 km long journey across the State, leading to the formation of the island town of Srirangapatna - another hub of hoary traditions and culture.

Like all centers of learning across India, Srirangapatna too thrived on her banks for centuries. A seat of Vaishnava philosophy with the famed Lord Ranganathaswamy temple on its banks, it was a center for the arts and literature.

As an important seat of Vijayanagara and the early Wodeyars, the town later became synonymous with terror for the East India Company as the capital of the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan. His defeat and death in 1799 ended in a plunder of the city. The Cauvery seems to symbolise the wails of Srirangapatna as she moves sluggishly in her meander around the island through the rocky course of the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary. The devastated town seems to make her assume a philosophical nature as the harbinger of salvation for departed souls - a nature distinctly different from her youthful exuberance amidst the hills of Madikeri.

With another sister Lokapavani joining her here, she celebrates the inevitability of death and subsequent liberation at the holy spot of ‘Sangam’- where religious Hindus immerse the ashes of their departed kin and pray for the deliverance of their souls.

Benevolent Cauvery

But the solemn nature doesn’t last too long. Some 50 miles away, she bifurcates again forming the second island of Shivasamudram. Leaving behind her melancholy at Srirangapatna, she plunges some 300 ft causing the cascading Shivasamudram Falls. These falls are the main source of hydroelectric power for the cities of Bangalore, Mysore and the Kolar Gold Fields.

The Cauvery seems to be at her generous best. It is her give-back time to the State. She is the lifeline for the farmers of the region between Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore. The KRS dam upstream brought over 1,20,000 acres of dry land under irrigation. Her waters are pumped and channeled 500 m above to Bangalore, a city 100 kms away, fulfilling the water needs of the burgeoning IT capital of India.

At her last stop where the three southern states - Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala - meet, the Kabini joins her in her pilgrimage to Somnathpur. Amidst the dust and turmoil of history, she has had glimpses of the rise of the Cholas, Pandyas and Hoysalas here. But the tumult of history transforms into an everlasting stillness in the grand 800-year-old Keshava Temple of the Hoysalas built on her banks at Somnathpur.

With the memories of an enchanting past that she has been witness to, it is time for her to bid farewell. Like a bride leaving her maiden home, she steps out from the loving embrace of Karnataka as she heads towards Tamil Nadu.

That the sorrow is coupled with the exciting uncertainty of what lies ahead couldn’t be more evident in her course here. With a reluctant wide gorgy meander around the region south of Bangalore, she takes a sharp turn into Tamil Nadu and her exhilaration shows up in the scenic beauty of Hogganakkal. They seem to announce the end of the life of an untamed river, even as the Mettur Dam in Salem hands over the bride to her groom across the State.

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