KOKKARE BELLUR: A ONE OF A KIND VILLAGE

One may have not chanced upon a village like Kokkare Bellur. Located in Mandya district, two hours away from the state capital Bangalore, it seems just like any other scenic village in Karnataka. It has a combination of drylands and wetlands, with the perennial river Shimsha flowing towards the south. However, from November to July, the village transforms into a spectacle as it prepares for the arrival of rare migratory birds, specifically the painted stork and spot billed pelicans who set up their nests on the backyard trees of the village homes. Other local birds include cormorants, egrets, black ibis, white ibis, and pond heron. This is a rare, unusual and mysterious phenomena that has been occurring for several hundred years.

The quaint charm of Kokkare Bellur Village

 

In 1994 when Manu K; founder of the NGO, Mysore Amateur Naturalists (MAN) had visited this village, he was distraught at the state of the chicks who would sometimes fall from the nests and often serve as food for cats, dogs and snakes. He interacted with the village folks and encouraged them to take care of the birds. Before, the villagers had been unaware on how to tackle this novel problem. Inspired by Manu K, B Linge Gowda and others (in ’94) started a local initiative called, Hejjarle Balaga (Friends of the Pelican). The villagers shared a harmonious relationship where the birds could descend in thousands to build their nests on the various trees, and to rear their young. The land below the trees was left untouched so as to not scare the birds. One early success is when villagers prevented a fellow farmer from cutting down a tamarind tree that housed a host of birds. Instead, they collectively paid him rent for the farming season in exchange for not cutting the tree. Further, the forest officials pay the villagers a specific amount of money to not use the land and also conduct checks each year.

A Spot billed Pelican lording overs its home!
A sick Pelican recovering in the arms of a caring local

The villagers consider these birds a godsend. According to them, the birds are believed to be bring good fortune, prosperity and blessings for all. The birds in the nine months prove to be extremely useful too! Their droppings, called Guano is a great fertilizer for the soil, as it is rich in potassium. For the women, these birds are, ‘daughters who are coming home for their delivery; (to deliver their babies).’ Children have been instructed to value the eggs and to protect the chicks. They are taught how to nurture and care for birds. They learn to care for injured chicks under the elders’ guidance. Children learn the importance of environment and the value they must give it. The birds and the villagers live in a compatible relationship and the villagers feel sad whenever it is time for the birds to leave. They look forward to the next season and hope to see the birds soon.

 

 

B Linge Gowda, has gone one step ahead and has donated around 2500 square feet of his own land, turning it into a Pelican Rescue Center. He protects birds from predators such as dogs and other animals, treats injured and orphaned chicks, and rescues birds. The rescued birds are fed approximately 2 kg fish, which they obtain from the neighbouring river, Shimsha. He is extremely popular in the village as he is one of the few people who remain true to the original initiative. B Linge Gowda is the first-person villagers go to when unable to tend to a bird. He is renowned for his ability to save chicks during the season. In a short interview with Praveen Singh, he remarks, “Other volunteers have moved on… I am the only one remaining now,”. When not busy rescuing birds, he can be found in his fair price shop or farming in the remaining months. He also happens to cultivate various crops such as paddy, groundnut, ragi and sugarcane.

He also informs us how the various birds build their nests. He mentions that pelicans are messy nest builders, with many eggs falling off the big tree tops. They lay about three-four eggs. But, the success rate (of chicks) is one. As of November, 2020, the latest nesting season, there are 91 pelican nests with more to be built in future. Typically, pelicans arrive in this village in November and leave by June-July. However, painted storks, by comparison, are good nesters. They lay eggs on smaller tree tops. They lay about two-three eggs. The success rates are better, about two chicks. The life-span for both birds are approximately 18-20 years.

 “Visitors and tourists are simply awed by the sights they see here… they have never seen anything quite like it,” remarks Praveen Singh, a heritage enthusiast, when talking about the numerous guests he takes to visit the various sights around Bangalore. Many of his guests from abroad have mentioned, that they are aware of a solitary or a couple of storks nesting on high smoke stacks, especially in the European countryside. But this is different. Such a profusion of wild, large birds living in close proximity to humans leaves them flabbergasted. However, to the villagers of Kokkare Bellur, though this might seem extraordinary, it isn’t unusual.

A rare haven where man, animals and birds live in perfect harmony

 

In recent years, however, there has been a sharp decline in the number of migratory birds, causing grief to villagers, officials, avid birdwatchers and alike. Various reasons have been considered however no definitive cause has been proven. Some think that there may be roundworms in the fish that the bird eats or it may be polluted, as in recent years, the river Shimsha has gotten contaminated by sewage and other discharge due the sugar factories located at the banks of the river. Other reasons could be urbanisation, degradation of wetlands around the village and the deterioration of the water and air quality.

This has caused the locals to step up and become more active than ever to tend to the birds. The government has helped by deployed forest officials during the peak season, monetary compensation has been increased by the rural government, camps and workshops are conducted by the locals to educate people about birds using fun ways such as plays, stories and other activities. This curious attraction draws people in and has caused many to visit this village though for the most part it has remained unknown. This is a little explored wonder of nature. One feels truly relaxed among nature. Kokkare Bellur is a testimony to man and bird’s relationship, one that can never fail to astound those around us. It remains one of the few places where you can see birds and man interact so closely. It also seeks us to remind us that small steps like a local initiative is a big step for conservation.

Written by Aayushi Jain and Praveen Singh. Photos by Praveen Singh and B Linge Gowda

Duration
12 hours
Group Size
Up to 8

THE BEST OF MYSORE/MYSURU, SOMNATHPUR & SRIRANGAPATNA IN A DAY

An action-packed day tour where the journey is as exciting as the destinations.

Typical itinerary:

Stop At: Ramanagara

We believe food is an integral part of an Indian cultural experience; hence we start our tour early and detour from the highway to visit a traditional eatery serving authentic local breakfast. Here our accompanying guide will take you through a sumptuous culinary experience.

Duration: 45 minutes

Stop At: Silk Cocoon Market

We visit India's largest silk cocoon market - a sight to behold. From our accompanying expert guide, learn the history of the famed Mysore silk and the complex stages of creating a silk garment from scratch.

Duration: 20 minutes

Stop At: Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

We get off the highway for an extended detour through lush countryside to reach this stunning Hindu temple( a ruin) from 1268 AD. It is nominated as a UNESCO heritage site and awaiting accreditation. Some of humankind's most exquisite stone carvings and sculptures are here. Our accompanying expert guide will introduce its history, Hinduism, its pantheon of gods, and the context of each beautiful carving.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Mysuru/Mysore Palace

We explore this bejeweled palace, among the most visited sites in India and the home of one of the wealthiest individuals in the world in its heyday – the Maharaja of Mysore. From our accompanying expert guide, learn about the Wodeyar rulers and their incredible contributions to putting this region on the global map as we leisurely survey and explore the interiors & exteriors of this dazzling palace.

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

Stop At: Devaraja Market, Mysore

Our accompanying expert guide will take you through a stroll inside an 1880s market stuck in a time warp. As you take a walk back in time, marvel at the sights, smells and sounds of the shops & people in the bazaar selling the choicest fruits, flowers, vegetables, bangles and local produce such as Jaggery, Attar, Masalas etc.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Srirangapatna

From Mysore, we drive to the historic river island of Srirangapatna. Here we break for a relaxed and sumptuous lunch at a picturesque setting by the gurgling waters of the River Cauvery.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Dariya Daulat Palace - Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace, Srirangapatna

Our final stop is the exquisite 1780s wooden palace of Tipu Sultan, where every inch of its interiors has delicate frescoes and murals of evocative battle scenes, floral and geometric patterns and portraits. Our accompanying expert guide will provide context to each hand painted artwork and regale you with stories of the valiant efforts of this ruler, the Tiger of Mysore, against the colonial powers of the time.

Duration: 45 minutes

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₹15,000
Duration
8 hours
Group Size
Up to 8

BANGALORE THROUGH THE AGES TOUR

Bangalore gives you the impression of a modern new city, yet if you scratch the surface, you will uncover a storied past dating back over 1000 years.

In this tightly paced tour, we will visit interesting sites of different eras – Historical Temples, Palaces, Heritage Buildings, Markets, Statues, a Fort, a Museum, a lush Park, and more and learn about their significance and contribution to the making of Bangalore.

It’s a tour of the story of Bangalore – from its modest origin in pre-medieval times; to the era when it was just another place compared to its more illustrious peers, now long faded into oblivion, to the fascinating times when the city was traded, and gifted like a commodity; then fought over and retained like a shining possession; right down to the times when it reached an inflexion point and came into its own as a modern mega city.

This is by no means an ordinary sightseeing trip, but a true journey of exploration with engaging commentary sprinkled with interesting facts and anecdotes. A tour is sure to stimulate your mind and invigorate your senses.

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₹10,000
Duration
4 hours 30 minutes
Group Size
Up to 8

BANGALORE THROUGH THE AGES – HALF DAY TOUR

Bangalore gives you the impression of a modern new city, yet if you scratch the surface, you will uncover a storied past dating back over 1000 years.

In this tightly paced tour, we will visit interesting sites of different eras – A lush park, A historic temple, the oldest Market of the city, and the centre of state government to learn about their significance and contribution to the making of Bangalore.

It’s a tour of the story of Bangalore – from its modest origin in pre-medieval times; to the era when it was just another place compared to its more illustrious peers, now long faded into oblivion, to the fascinating times when the city was traded, and gifted like a commodity; then fought over and retained like a shining possession; right down to the times when it reached an inflexion point and came into its own as a modern mega city.

This is by no means an ordinary sightseeing trip, but a true journey of exploration with engaging commentary sprinkled with interesting facts and anecdotes. A tour is sure to stimulate your mind and invigorate your senses.

from
₹7,000
Duration
2 days
Group Size
1 to 8

THE WONDER THAT IS HAMPI

Hampi, a UNESCO world heritage site with nearly 1600 monuments of significance, was the power centre of India's most significant medieval Hindu kingdom and among the world's wealthiest regions in the 16th century. Portuguese and Arab writers speak of riches and a grandeur not seen elsewhere during its heydays. Over two days, we will explore the most exciting and majestic monuments and temples.

Day One: Depart at 6:30 am from Bangalore, and after a sumptuous breakfast enroute, arrive in Hampi. Check in to your hotel and post lunch, we begin our exploration. Sites include the Royal Enclosure, Queen's Bath, Hazara Rama Temple, and Manyavanta Raghunatha Temple Sunset Point. Dinner is at your hotel.

Day Two: Vijaya Vittala temple and Bazaar precinct. After that, we explore the Elephants Stables, The Zenena area with the Lotus Mahal, Virupaksha temple, Hemakuta hill, Sasivekalu Ganapathi, Lakshmi Narasimha statue, etc. Post lunch, drive to Bangalore and, if time permits, explore Chitradurga Fort.

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₹56,000
Duration
12 hours
Group Size
Up to 8

LEPAKSHI AND NANDI HILLS WITH ACCOMPANYING GUIDE + BREAKFAST + LUNCH

A fascinating day trip exploring an array of cultural, historical, and natural wonders of India

Our first stop is for a sumptuous South Indian breakfast. We then quickly make our way to a quaint town to explore an amazing medieval temple having India’s biggest Nandi bull; Snake sculpture and the largest hand-painted fresco. It is the home of a few mysterious hanging pillars too

We then move on to watch skillful workers create silk thread out of silk cocoons at a cottage sericulture workshop. Get to know the various stages in the creation of fine silk cloth that this region is historically famous for. The next stop is a pottery workshop where you can try your hand at making a custom urn or a pot of clay. A visit to a quaint century-year-old train station stuck in a time warp, follows.

We then move on to explore a remarkable 9th-century Hindu temple frozen in time. It is the oldest one in the Bangalore region. Learn about the fabled empires of South India that have left their marks within its boundaries.

The region is home to one of India’s handful of Biodiversity Heritage sites. We explore his remarkable 800-year-old Tamarind trees grove. The gnarled tree trunks and extraordinary root suckers propping the old trees are a botanical marvel.

Our final stop is a visit to the ramparts of a couple of forts from the 16th and 18th centuries. Get to know about the valiant 18th-century warrior and statesman, Tipu Sultan and his indelible impact and contributions.

We are back in Bangalore by about 6 pm.

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₹14,000
Duration
4 hours
Group Size
2 to 8

BRITISH HERITAGE TOUR

The legacy of over 150 years of British presence in Bangalore is hard to miss if you are in the city. For example, The broad roads laid out over 200 years ago for horse carriages, bullock carts, and horsemen do a fine job of carrying the chaotic traffic of this day.

The British brought to Bangalore promenades, parks, churches, schools, hospitals, pubs, clubs, shopping centers, dance halls, race courses, golf ranges, cricket, etc where there was none before.

In this specially curated tour, we will explore in detail many of the fascinating landmarks of that era as well as sneak a peek at a few more that have left an indelible mark on the cityscape of Bangalore

You will also learn how events of that era have shaped a modest town to become one of the largest cities in India in a few generations; how the capital of an unknown state has become the outsourcing capital of the world.

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₹5,650