February 29, 2012

The State that is Karnataka

A land whose vitality is expressed through its culture, from the ancient dance drama of Yakshagana, to the unknown story of the silent rock of Hampi, from the best expression of Islamic architecture at Bijapur to the marvelous rock temples at Belur and Halebid. Karnataka is truly a microcosm representing the diversity of the entire country into one single unit. It is indeed a blessing that we all are witness to the bounty of this ancient land everyday of our lives.

As a state, traditionally forests have been revered and accorded a high degree of protection. Greenery has been respected and the capital city was famous across the world as a garden city. Very few urban conglomerations in the world would have a sprawling national park in the form of Bannerghatta so close to the city centre and if one goes further down the road beyond Kanakapura, the wilds of Karnataka beckon in the form of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.

It is also a land of a mind boggling variety of food sensibilities. Puliogare, Bisibele Hulianna, Chitarana, Mosaruanna, Vangibath, rice avatars such as Sanna, Noolputtu, Kadabu, Kadubittu, Kadambuttu, Bemble curry, Pandi curry, Yenne Badanekayi, Menthe Soppu, Coorgi version of rice roti, akki roti and above all, Ragi, the simple down to earth millet which is the staple food across millions in the state.

Ragi would perhaps qualify as the epitomisation of the Kannadiga spirit, strong, hard working and soft at heart. A ball of ragi mudde with a puli (tamarind) rich sambar made by forest guards at some anti poaching camp, deep inside the forest with few utensils and a simple assortment of masalas is a treat. When after a day’s walk, you are sprawled out on the bamboo bed and Karia puts the ragi powder onto the utensil, pours water and uses a bamboo karchi to mix the powder and within minutes, the ball is made - it feels like heaven and many forest lovers would testify to it.
Then the exotic fiery food of North Karnataka with Jowar dominating the minds and food tastes just as Ragi does so in South Karnataka. Jowar bhakri follows you as you move around the villages and towns in and around the northern part. Mysore pak is as famous as its namesake town with tourists often thronging popular sweet shops during a visit to the town.

Then there is the geographical diversity in the form of natural regions. Karnataka has one of the richest remaining forests in the country with more than 43,356 thousand square kilometers or twenty two percent of the land under recorded forest area.

These forests are a treasure house of biodiversity and the sheer choice that nature has to offer humbles and reminds man of its bountiful nature. The famed Western Ghats achieves its greatest glory in the state with more than 60 per cent of the Ghats falling in Karnataka. Besides forest rich areas in the central and eastern portions also enrich the forest wealth of the state.

The state has perhaps one of the leading wildlife landscapes in the world. With more than 25 percent of all elephants, 10 percent of all tigers and a dense conglomeration of major herbivores as well as predators, the jungles of Karnataka abound with the attraction of its wildlife.

The forests are diverse. In the southern portion are the famed national parks of Nagarhole and Bandipur bordering contiguous forests in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As we move eastwards, we touch the forests of Biligiri Rangana Betta and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Karnataka is a wondrous state, one which abounds in natural wealth and grand vistas. Karnataka is indeed the best place to be, when it comes to appreciating forests, hills, beaches, temples and human cultures. JLR strives hard to match the expectations of eco-tourists and showcase the natural wealth of Karnataka.