The drive to Kollur took me off the boring national highway back into the Western Ghats – the low traffic, winding hilly roads with forest cover on both sides sure are a roadie’s delight.
Signs marked ‘Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary’ greeted me about 10 miles before town, but there were no clues on how one could go exploring inside. Not a smart idea to just walk or drive into a forest without guidance.
A few miles further on brought me to the Aanejari Butterfly Camp – looked promising with a gate and a hut to greet tourists. But it was locked dampening my freshly heightened spirits. A sign mentioned a site junglecamptrails.com but, not surprisingly, it was not functioning.
And then it was into Kollur with its famous Mookambika Temple dedicated to Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. You do not find many temples designated only for this Goddess. Parvati in Tamil is known as Thai Mookambika.
The legend behind this temple: A demon named Kaumasura had been unleashing terror on the Gods, and his powers were expected to increase when he performed severe penance to Lord Shiva. Sensing the latter would grant any wishes, the Goddess of Speech made Kaumasura dumb before he could voice anything. He thus came to be known as Mookasura (mooka means dumb). Thereafter, Parvati, wife of Shiva, killed the demon and herself came to be known as Mookambika.
It is believed the idol installed in the main temple goes back 1,200 years. Another wow!
I also got a peek into the dining room where free meals are served to thousands daily with an efficiency that would set many a Harvard graduate perplexed. Move over McKinsey, time to engage Mookambika Consultants.
The town itself was like any other temple town, but the surrounding mountain ranges sure made for a beautiful setting – despite the bright sun and heat on that day. The highest peak in these mountains is the Kodachadri at 1,343 metres.
I wanted to head up to Kodachadri but it was already late afternoon – and I was not advised to be all myself in the dark in a place with virtually no one else around. Left it for the day when I will drive through the Western Ghats in the monsoons.
Unfortunately, while there are options to stay and eat in Kollur, they did not look very inviting. Wish someone would start developing cleaner budget properties for travellers to temple towns in India.
You can visit what looks like an official website of the temple: http://www.srimookambika.com
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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