Kaveri (or Cauvery) is one of the major rivers of peninsular India. Originating in the Western Ghats, it makes its way through the states of Katnataka and Tamil Nadu before converging in the Bay of Bengal.
The sharing of the river water has been a serious cause of conflict between the two Indian states. The conflict dates back to the early 1890s, when Karnataka was known as Mysore and Tamil Nadu was known as Madras Residency.
The first agreement of Kaveri water sharing happened in 1892 between the British-ruled Madras Residency with the Kingdom of Mysore, which was then ruled by Tipu Sultan. The conflict continued till 2012, when the Supreme Court came up with a final verdict regarding the share of Kaveri water.
The Niagara of India
Hogenakkal Main Falls, along with side falls from the Tamil Nadu side
In spite of the century old conflict the greatest spectacle of the Kaveri can be seen right on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where it plunges several meters to create the spectacular Hogenakkal Falls, often referred as the Niagara of India.
The falls actually consist of a combination of several small falls along with the main falls, all of which thunders down the rocky landscape. The name Hogenakkal is of Kannada origin and literally translates into “Smoky Rocks”. When the river falls on the rock below, the gushing force of water resembles smoke emanating from the rocks.
Although there are several locations providing amazing views of the different sections of falls, it can be best explored in circular boats known as coracles. Coracles are locally made circular boats measuring about 7-1/2 feet feet in diameter. The main structure is made of bamboo with animal hides used for waterproofing. A coat of tar on the outer surface enhances the level of waterproofing. These days, animal skin has been replaced with plastic because of reduced cost and ready availability.
Operated by a single boatman using only one paddle, it can carry up to eight passengers. However, the number drops when the water levels are high and the services are totally stopped during the monsoon. These indigenous boats carry tourists through the complex maze of rivers and streams leading to the edge of several smaller falls and finally leading them to viewpoints offering spectacular views of the main falls.
Stream crossing on the way to the Karnataka side of the Hogenakkal Falls
The passengers are provided with lifejackets and the standard coracle rides start from the boat park of Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) and cost Rs 750. The ride takes tourists below the hanging bridge and leads to the base of the small falls. However, some negotiations and a few rupees more can extend the trip. The extended trip goes up the Kaveri River towards the main falls. Makeshift shops operating from coracles do brisk business by selling chips and other snacks to the tourist and even accept digital payment.
The river passes through a gorge of towering walls with occasional waterfalls thundering down the steep walls. It finally leads to the viewpoint of the main falls on the Tamil Nadu side. A short climb leads to the view point offering a panoramic view of the gigantic falls along with several other minor falls thundering down the side walls, creating the smoking rock effect. However, the main Hogenakkal Falls is far away and good views are not obtained from this view point.
The other side of the river is definitely greener
The grand view of the main Hogenakkal Falls with the rainbow, seen from the Karnataka side
The main falls can be best viewed from the Karnatraka side. A short coracle ride across the river takes tourists to the Karnataka side. From there, a short walk through the rocky terrain leads to the main falls. The walk, although short, has its share of adventure and involves crossing of several narrow but swift flowing streams. Finally, the short walk ends with a spectacular view of the main falls thundering down the steep rock face. Rainbows are often spotted in the splashing waters of the Hogenakkal Falls. A dilapidated elevated platform next to the falls provides a bird’s eye view of the smoking waters of the main falls.