Shimoga District is in southern part of Karnataka state in India. The district has an area of 10,553 km². and a population of 1,642,545 of which 34.76% was urban as of 2001. The town of Shimoga (in Kannada, locally known as Shivamogga) located on the banks of Tunga River is the administrative headquarters of the district and is located about 274 km. from Bangalore. Shimoga city is an important industrial and commercial center now in the state. The Kannada name Shivamogga is derived from Shivamukha, meaning “Face of Shiva”. An alternative etymology is that the name is derived from the term Sihimoge, meaning sweet Pot.
Shimoga district is a part of naturally rich Malnad region of Karnataka. It is also known as “Gateway to Malnad or Malenaada Hebbagilu in Kannada. It is bounded by Haveri to the northeast, Davanagere to the east, Chikmagalur to the southeast, Udupi to the southwest, and Uttara Kannada to the northwest. The Western Ghats or Sahyadri range and the numerous rivers that originate there provide Shimoga with abundant natural beauty. The numerous lakes, ponds and water bodies make it very suitable for agriculture. Shimoga is called the rice bowl of Karnataka. Several rivers originate here including Tunga, Bhadra which are large tributaries of river Krishna , Sharavati, Kumudvati, Varada and others.
The history of Shimoga is very much the history of Karnataka itself, considering that all the great Kingdoms that came to power here have vied for control of and ruled this land of rich resources. Prior to the begining of the first millenium, Shimoga formed a part of the Mayura empire. The Shatavahana then came to control in central India and Shimoga must have formed one of the southern most provinces of the kingdom. After the fall of the Shatavahana empire around 200 C.E., after a brief interlude of confusion that existed, the area came under the control of the Kadambas of Banavasi around 345 C.E. The Kadambas were the earliest kingdom to give administrative status to Kannada language. Banavasi is just across the border from Shimoga inside Uttara Kannada district. Later the Kadambas became feudatories of the Badami Chalukyas aroud 540 C.E.. Shimoga passed into the hands of the Rashtrakutas in the 8th. century. It was only under the Kalyani Chalukyas who overthrew the Rashtrakutas did Shimoga come into prominance in Southern India. Balligavi in Shimoga district had its greatest and grandest time during there rule. Later in the 12th. century with the weakening of the Kalyani Chalukyas the Hoysalas annexed this area. Shimoga continued to play an important role in the development of Kannada culture and arts during this time. After the fall of the Hoysalas to the invasion of the Khilji dynasty around 1343 C.E. the entire region came under the Vijayanagar Empire without any bloodshed. The Saluva kings of the Vijayanagar empire find their roots in this region. After the defeat of Vijayanagar empire in 1565 C.E. in the battle of Tallikota, Shimoga had one more last surprise in that the local Keladi Nayakas who were originally feudatory of the Vijayanagar empire took control, declared soverignity and ruled mostly as an independend kingdom for about two centuries, often waging wars with the Mysore Kingdom, the Sultans of Bijapur and finally the Maratha. In 1763 they were finally absorbed into the Kingdom of Mysore and remained a part of it till independence from the British.
Shimoga District is mostly dependent on its rich agricultural pastures for income. Paddy is the most commonly grown produce. Tourism to Jog falls, Balligavi, Gudavi, Ikkeri, Keladi and Banavasi are the second main cash earners. Handicrafts from Sagara and Soraba also bring in some income.
Shimoga district is considered as the heartland of Kannada language and culture. It has contributed two of the greatest Kannada scholars of modern times, Kuvempu and U.R. Ananthamurthy, both of whom are Jnanpith awardees. K.V. Subbanna is the Magasaysay award winner for drama and humanities. Girish Kasaravalli has won more national and Swarna Kamal awards for Kannada classic movies than any other living film director in India, thus enriching Kannnda film industry and Kannda culture in general. Shimoga continues to produce prolific Kannada scholars, novelists, film directors, dramatists and statesman. Overwhelming majority of the people speak Kannada as their native language and just about everybody speaks it anyway.
Places of Antiquity
Legends compare 12th. century Balligavi in Shikaripura taluk to Lord Indras Amaravathi or Lord Kuberas Alakavathi. Balligave was the centre of learning, secular arts, commerce and sculpture. The town had thirteen education centers, fifty four temples of which only a few survive today, tweleve Jain basadis, three Buddhist viharas and many majestic palaces, lakes, wide roads and a population of about sixty thousand. Archaeological evidence points to existance of Balligavi as early as the Shatavahanas. Balligavi was the center of many religions like Shaiva and Vaishnava Hinduism, Brahmi, Shaktha, Jain, Buddhism. The Kedareshwar temple (1060 C.E.) in Chalukya-Hoysala style, Tripurantkeswar temple (1070 C.E.), Gandabherundeswar temple (1070 C.E.) in later Chalukya style in Balligavi and the Aghoreshwara temple at Ikkeri and the Rameshwara temple at Keladi both built in the 17th. century by the Keladi Nayakas are silent reminders of a glorious past. The Nayakas have used a variety of styles from predecessor kingdoms like the late Kadambas, Hoysala and even dravida styles. Balligavi was also the native place of Shantaladevi, queen of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana. Many sculptors who worked for the Hoysalas to build the famous temples at Belur and Halebid came from here including Dasoja, Malloja, Nadoja, Siddoja. During the Virashaiva movement, Balligavi contributed great Vachanakaras like Allama Prabhu who was born here and other like Akka Mahadevi, Animishayya and Mukthayakka who were also associated with this place.
Rivers, dams and water falls
- Jog Falls These falls have amazing beauty and is the highest falls (in a single leap) in Asia and ninth highest falls in the world. Jog Falls, situated 113 km. away from Shimoga city, close to the border with Uttara Kannada district bears witness to natures headlong tumble as the Sharavati river makes a spectacular drop of 965 feet in four distinct cascades known locally as Raja, “Rani”, “Roarer” and “Rocket” to create the highest waterfalls in Asia. The falls are at their best during the monsoon with arching rainbows colouring the mist.
- Linganamakki dam across the Sharavati river
- Vanake-Abbey is a scenic water fall, though small in size.
- Bhadra River project and dam across the river Bhadra at Lakkavalli is 194 ft. high.
- Koodli literaly means coming together where the two rivers Tunga and Bhadra join and become Tunga Bhadra river, one of the largest tributaries if the river Krishna. Koodli has some quaint temples and a 16th century smartha monastery and a 14th century Shankaracharya Math
- Achakanya falls across the Sharavati river half way between Shimoga and Jog falls.
- Ambuteertha is the source of the river Sharavathi.
- Varadamoola where the river Varada originates and joins Tunga and Bhadra at Sagara
Hill Stations and Adventure
- Agumbe west of Shimoga city can be reached at a distance of 90 km. The altitude here is 826 meters and is famous for enchanting Sunsets. as the Sun sets, it takes different colours and shapes and this is reflected by the Arabian sea.
- Kavaledurga’ is a magnificent fort located on a hill at an altitude of 5056 feet.
- Kodachadri Hills is 115 km. from Shimoga city. At an altitude of 1411 ft. this hill station provides great views of the forests of the western ghats in Shimoga and south Canara districts. This good weekend getaway is only now being discovered by those other than hardy trekkers.
- Kundadri has unique rock formations and has good views
History and Religion
- Shimoga fort is mostly in ruins but a well renovated Hoysala temple of Seetharamanjaneya is worth visiting.
- Shivappa Nayaka Palace and Museum is located right in the city of Shimoga itself. The palace built by the 17th. century ruler Shivappa Nayaka contains many interesting pieces of sculpture and artifacts from that period.
- Government Museum in the city contains many ancient coins, manuscripts and inscriptions for the historically inclined.
- Bhadravathi town is called “steel town” for its steel industries. The Lakshminarasimha temple of 13th. century Hoysala style is woth a visit.
- Chandragutti in Soraba taluk is a short distance from Balligavi. The fort built by Banavasi Kadambas and the Renukamba temple are the places to see.
- Humcha is a Jain pilgrimage place with 10th and 11th century Panchakuta basadi, Padmavathi temple and Jain Math which are worth visiting.
- Church of the Sacred Heart is in the city itself and is the second largest in India
- Kubetoor has several Kalyani Chalukyan temples. The Kedareshvara temple is the best.
- Nagara was the last capital of the Keladi Kings. The Hyder Ali tank, Neelakanteshwara and Venkataramana temple are of interest here.
- Sagara and Soraba are famous for their wood carvings and handicrafts. They have a long history of the art.
- Talagunda is a place of high importance for those who are arcaeologically minded. This place has several ancient temples and has unvailed very important inscriptions including the famous 450 C.E. “Talagunda inscription” of Shantivarman, an early Kadamba king. The inscription is in Prakrit language and has given historians very useful information about the Kadamba Kingdom and its history.
- Uduthadi, birth place of Virashaiva saints Akka Mahadevi and Vaitagyanidhi.
- Sharavathi and Someshvara Wildlife Sanctuary are rich in wildlife and these areas are included in the proposed UNESCO World Heritage site list provided by the Indian Government to the U.N.
- Tavarekoppa has a lion and tiger Safari on the same lines as the Bannerghatta safari park near Bangalore.
- Sakkarebailu is elephant training camp. Early in the morning elephants come to bathe and drink water from the stream.
- Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. While this sanctuary is mostly in Chikmagalur, it covers a part of the Bhadravathi taluk.
- Gudavi bird Sanctuary located near Jog falls is one of the best in the state. A total of 191 species of birds have been spotted here in the natural lake. May through October is the right time to go here. The sanctuary covers about 0.74 km².
- Mandagadde bird sanctuary is 30 km. from Shimoga city going south-west. The sanctuary has many leafless trees which become a heaven for migratory birds between July and October.
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