The river Cauvery is quite often referred to as the Ganga of the South. In matters of living culture, she leads all the rivers including the Ganga. Along her lower course where she sweeps round into Tamil Nadu from Karnataka occur a magnificent series of temple towns famed for philosophy, art and music.
Along the Cauvery, civilisation still presides as a vital experience whether it be the civic virtues of the people of Coorg, the municipal graces of Mysore or the splendid religious atmosphere of Srirangam. Of all the rivers, this one came nearest of defining a river goddess: a being of beauty who blesses the land and inspires the people she waters.
Her source at Talakaveri is neat more than spectacular and is fairly easily reached from Mercara. The youthful impetuosity of the Cauvery amid her green skirts and flower strewn slippers contrasts painfully with the older, wiser and world-weary streams.
Talakaveri, the source, lies near the border of Karnataka and Kerala. Brahmagiri source – the Godavari – hovered here. It is actually the source of Cauvery and tributary of the Kannika. Talakaveri is more famous however for her appearance act. This occurs very conveniently during the annual October fair when the spring at a moment predicted by the priests surges up and overflows miraculously to re-enact the symbolism of the goddess emptying her pot.
The middle reaches of the river are well known on the tourist circuit. North of Mysore the Vrindavan gardens are watered by the Cauvery which is dammed above at Krishnarajasagara. The best known shrine to the goddess is on the island of Srirangapatnam. This was the capital of Tipu Sultan, where the outstanding warrior made his last stand.
The great falls at Shivanasamudram, the site of India’s very first hydro-electric undertaking. Spooking village of Talakad around which the river loops as sand blows in to silt up its past. The Kanya and Arkavati streams drain the immeasurably old Bangalore plateau.
The bracing plateau gives rise to the Chinnar which joins the Cauvery as she makes a drastic southern swerve.
Dropping southwards the Cauvery enters the huge Stanley lake of the Mettur dam. Chidambaram, the actual sacred thread of the goddess runs south, past the musical tirtha of Tiruvaiyuru to join the sea at Poompuhar. The delta of the Cauvery extends some 140 km along an extraordinary straight coastline. Overlooking the modern fishing village of Poompuhar (as the original slowly yields its secret to underwater archaeological investigations), is an attractive statue most visitors unfamiliar with the glories of Tamil literature assume to be of Cauvery. Actually it is of the heroine of the “The Anklet”, Kannagi. The constant referring of the name Ganga to the Cauvery underlies Agastya Muni’s success in knitting north and south culturally.
PAPA – LEGEND OF THE KABINI JUNGLE RESORT
Col John Wakefield, an Indian-born Englishman, knows the Indian jungles and wildlife like the back of his hand.
The eighty-year-old driver of the jeep – a cute figure with his beautiful, round, bald head, a plump and a Hercule Poirot moustache – just smiled at the lone tusker trumpeted menacingly, hardly fifty yards from the parked jeep. As the tusker began to advance menacingly, the driver waved to him and said “Oh! Stop.” The huge hulk stopped, giving a disappointed look that he could not complete the task begun.
The family chart of Papa makes an interesting reading. It shows his descent through Robert Barclay, apologist of the Quakers and his inter-connection with Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, Sir Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics, T F Buxton, the emancipator of the slaves and John Nicholson, the “hero” of Delhi.
But the high connections least bother him. A down-to-earth, practical man, he is more worried about the delicate health of the baby elephant, whom he found in herd banks of the Kabini river the previous day.
Papa was born in 1916 in Gaya, Bihar. His long and intimate kingship with the jungles and wildlife of India began in his early years, under the guidance of his father, who worked with the Maharajah of Tikari.
Young John used to regularly accompany his father in his hunts. At the age of nine, John shot a leopard in the company of his father. The very next year, his father made him shoot a tigress.
Finding little John not evincing enough interest in studies he was packed off to England in 1926. But his heart was always in India and its jungles and so after six years he returned to his ‘land.’
In 1941, he began his career in the Army, serving in various capacities until 1955. As Emergency Commission Officer, he saw service in the Jungle Training Division and in the Burmese operations ending in Rangoon and held the rank of Colonel in the Civil Affairs Services in Burma.
After spending a short while in Singapore, he returned to India and in 1947 worked in the Military Evacuation Organisation’s operations in Pakistan and served in Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad police action.
The call of the Jungle was irresistible for Papa. In 1967 he took up a career in wildlife tourism when he joined the Kumaon Hunters Safari Company in Bijnor with whom he worked until 1972.Between 1975 and 1976, he worked with the Lindblad Wildlife Travels Company, as a naturalist escorting wildlife tours to all the newly founded National Parks in India.
In 1976 and 1977, he was the Indian representative to Anglia Television’s (UK) Survival series, co-ordinating the ground arrangements for their filming of wildlife in India’s protected forests. His long and significant relationship with Tiger Tops (India & Nepal) began in 1978: he worked as wildlife consultant and later held the posts of General Manager in Kashmir and Ladakh and Alternate Director with Dr. McDougall on the Jungle Lodges and Resorts Board.
His tremendous experience in the field came into its own when Tiger Tops arrived in Karnataka. From the conception of the idea of the Resort in the Kabini jungles, to the selection of sites for tourist accommodation and facilities there, way back in the late ’70s, his expertise as a planner and advisor was evident at every stage.
Thanks to his tireless energy and foresight, the Jungle Lodges and Resorts organization has grown over the years. He has been the Resident Director at Kabini since 1986, and is currently involved in the planning of the Muttodi Elephant Safari and the resorts at Dandeli.
Papa now occupies a small portion of the former viceregal Hunting Lodge at Kabini, 70 km from Mysore.