Bamboo Banks To Buddhism: Explore Kushalnagar, The Other Side Of Coorg
So enamoured are we by the coffee and climate of Coorg, we forget that there is so much more to the Scotland Of India. And the first thing that comes to mind outside all this beauty, is Kushalnagar. From being a sleepy town to being a less sleepy Tibetan settlement, the place is a melting pot of culture, adventure, and nature. So before you get to the plantations, make sure to stop over here. You’ll thank us when you return.
While essentially in the larger town of Kushalnagar, Bylakuppe is the Tibetan settlement (the largest outside of Tibet itself). With the Namdroling Monastery the main attraction, don’t leave here without a spot of shopping. From Potala incense and hauntingly beautiful gongs and bells to trendy clothing and shoes from Tibet (or rather the dominating China), there is plenty to stock up on here. That too at knock-off rates. What we love most though are the trinkets — wooden mostly, and handmade. While most are inspired by Buddha and his teachings, you’ll find that these religious accessories (think bracelets, amulets, and rings) are rather fashionable. There’s also the educational monastic institution Sera Monastery and the small but striking Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to see here. Of course, we don’t need to tell you to eat momos — your nose will lead you forward anyway!
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
Started by His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche with the blessing of His Holiness Dalai Lama, the monastery follows the principles of Tibetan Buddhism. Apart from being the home to over 5,000 monks and nuns, the temple complex is a sight to see. Done up in typical Tibetan architecture and style, the pagodas, gold and red paint, tiered gates and Zen gardens will really make you gawk. Shutterbugs can go wild with the sun dancing on the gold roof. Inside the Golden Temple, we find it so peaceful we forget our cameras. In fact, it’s almost intimidatingly beautiful to walk into a massive hall, the din of monks chanting, and look up to three stunning gold statues — Padmasambhava, the Buddha, and Amitayus.
#LBBTip: Don’t try and get a picture with monks and nuns when they’re in prayer. And certainly, don’t talk in the silent areas.
A beautiful island in the middle of Kushalnagar, Nisargadhama is a little slice of heaven. With bamboo groves, teak and sandalwood forests, deer wandering and elephants lumbering along, it’s not hard to see why this is a must-visit. The Cauvery river lends itself to swimming in some parts, but be careful, it’s prone to flash floods. There’s also elephant rides and coracle ones to keep you entertained. We also love to stay a night here as they have the most charming albeit rustic huts dotting the island. Our favourites though are the cottages on stilts that overlook the river. Bliss!
Dubare Elephant Camp
Oh, we do love our pachyderms! And we like them more so when we can get up-close and personal with them. Luckily, that is exactly what you can do here at the Dubare Elephant Camp. Apart from feeding the gentle giants their massive ragi muddes (millet balls), you can then go along and help the mahout give them their bath! Expect to get completely drenched as the elephants can get rather playful, especially when there are little ones around. Check out our story on the camp in more detail here.
Large and impressive, the compound of the Harangi dam is ideal for a picnic. With the calm waters to serenade you when the floodgates are up or the gush of waters when they’re lowered, there’s always some excitement around here. You can choose to use the stairs to get to the vantage point, or skip up the side of the dam for added adventure – we chose the latter and found many Instagram moments on the way. Try getting there just before sunset, the view is spectacular. Get your permission before heading up from the office nearby, and sample the super sweet coconut water, sold year-round, right beside it.
Valnur Fishing Camp
If you’re skilled enough at angling, head to this fishing camp in the backwaters of the Cauvery. Known as being a great spot to catch mahseer (great to grill and gobble), you’re on your own in terms of equipment, however. Since the waters are really calm, it’s not to hard even for a novice to get a good catch as the fish literally leap out of the waters anyway. Not interested in this sport? Fear not. Just pack a picnic and lounge on the banks of the little cove with a book in hand. There are a few resorts which allow this legally, but if you go just for the day, you’ll need permission from the Coorg Wildlife Society.