‘Petrichor’ is the name for the earthy scent that emerges when fresh rain hits the soil after a long gap. This Greek word is a combination of two words ‘Petra’ (stone) and ‘Ichor’ which literally means the fluid that passes through the veins of Gods. People say this sweet fragrance has a rejuvenating effect on the body, perhaps it is more of a psychological reason because our ancestors considered rain as an essential element for survival. Scientifically speaking, when rain drops hit dry soil, the tiny pores on the earth release small bubbles of plant oils, bacteria and Ozone into the air which causes the scent. Though large amount of Ozone could be dangerous to human lungs, the actual amount being released during this event is negligible.
I think we are drifting away from our main subject. Let’s talk about the places where rain has become the part and parcel of daily life. ‘Cherrapunji’ in the North Eastern corner of India was once known as the wettest place on the planet and it still holds the Guinness Book record for maximum rainfall received at a place.
A less-known place called ‘Agumbe’ on the Western Ghats is called the ‘Cherrapunji of South India’ where rain is a living character in every story they tell. The tropical rain forest of Agumbe is famous for its bio-diversity, rare species of medicinal herbs and as well for a majestic inhabitant, the ‘King Cobra’.
Agumbe hill station lies 380 km from Bangalore, situated in Shimoga district of Karnataka, India. Agumbe is a small village town with very little facilities for food and accommodation. Mallya Residency is a decent lodge near the bus station. There are some home-stays in and around the area, out of which ‘Dodda Mane’ stands right in the middle of the town, that has witnessed the test of time for over 150 years.
In 1986, when R.K.Narayan’s ‘Malgudi Days’ was televised, many scenes were shot here in this house. Dodda Mane means Big House in Kannada, which is an ancient house constructed by Vasudeva Rao in 1860 that was further expanded into a Bungalow by the rich family of farmers. The mansion made of mud, stone and wood has 28 rooms with large courtyards and couple of kitchens. Eminent personalities who visited Dodda Mane include Mysore Diwan Mirza Ismail, Visvesvaraya and Jawaharlal Nehru. This heritage home now belongs to Kasthuri Jayanth Rao, a senior citizen who finds it difficult to maintain it as before. People fondly call her Kasthuri Akka, who still keeps the family tradition of offering food and shelter to travelers without attaching a price tag.
During the monsoon, meadows get covered with refreshingly green blankets of grass and the trees wear an additional layer of makeup done by Algae, lichens and moss. There are plenty of places where adventurous enthusiasts go for forest trekking, off-road driving or macro photography. Since the forest could be the home for blood sucking leaches and snakes, do not forget to wear boots during your explorations. A ten minutes’ walk from Agumbe town leads you to the sunset point, from where one could see the Arabian sea on a clear day.
Adventurous trekkers also venture into the waterfalls around the area viz, Kunchikal Falls, Barkana Falls, Onake Abbi Falls and Jogigundi Falls etc. Kundadry hills situated at a height of 3200 ft is another interesting destination near Agumbe. Drive up the narrow road that leads to the top of the hill, from where you could have a clear view of the valley with rain clouds floating above it. There is an old Jain temple on top of the hills with an adjoining pond usually filled with rain water. The trekking trail that goes up the hill gets surrounded by lush green forests and beautiful flowers in monsoon season.
One could also pay a visit to Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) situated inside the rain forest, which was initiated by the famous Indian herpetologist Romulus Whitaker for the conservation & breeding of King Cobras.
Agumbe lies so close (28Km) to Sringeri, a famous pilgrimage center en-route to Bangalore. Many people consider it would be worth visiting Agumbe during a drive between Udupi and Sringeri. Though my trip lasted a little over 24 hours, it will always remain as a place to rekindle my childhood fantasies. I have returned home with enough fresh air and Petrichor to survive the city life.
How to reach Agumbe
By Road :-
- (Distance 355 Km) Bangalore – Hassan – Chikmagaluru – Agumbe
- (Distance 60 Km) Agumbe – Udupi
- (Distance 116 Km) Mangaluru – Udupi – Agumbe