As one travels to Talakad from Mysore, which is a very quaint city by itself, the rural countryside opens up and a delightful hour long drive ensues, ripe with green scenery and riparian sights. You cross a bridge across the river Kaveri, with the Madhav Mantri dam on the left, and you know you are in Talakad.
It is almost a town like any other, at first glance. Sights of bullock carts and dhoti clad villagers sitting at the foot of banyan trees doing nothing, present themselves. It is when you pass this idle setting and move towards the banks of the river that you notice it. Sand. In an area of a few square miles around the river, sand dunes abound. There are few scientific clarifications for this anomaly. The only explanation is a story going back to the history of the Mysore Wodeyars, a mysterious woman by the name of Alamelamma, and a legendary curse.
In the year 1610, the Mysore Wodeyars weren’t yet the powerful dynasty that they were to become; they were a vassal to the Vijayanagar Empire. The Wodeyars wished to break away and form their own kingdom, and an opportunity soon presented itself. Thirumalaraja, the viceroy of Vijayanagar at Srirangapatna (15 kms from Mysore) fell sick with a tumour on his back. With an ever worsening condition, Thirumalaraja went to Talakad with his first wife, to pray. His second wife, Alamelamma, stayed back at Srirangapatna, heading the administration. Inevitably, Thirumalaraja lay lying on his deathbed, and Alamelamma, hearing of this, rushed to Talakad to see her dying husband. King Wodeyar seized the moment, took control of Srirangapatna and declared himself king. Stranded in the town of Malangi, very close to Talakad, Alamelamma was unable to return.
Alamelamma was an ardent devotee of the goddess of the temple at Srirangapatna. She used to lend her jewels for use in the temple. King Wodeyar now wished to procure these jewels from Alamelamma, and sent his soldiers to Malangi to do the same. Alamelamma was very protective about her jewellery and adamantly sent the soldiers back, refusing to give them up. The king sent the soldiers back again, this time with much stricter orders. The soldiers, fearful of the king’s wrath, began to force Alamelamma. She grabbed her box of jewels and escaped from the back door, having been left with no other choice.
Alamelamma ran for all she was worth, with the soldiers close on her heels. She had reached a cliff overlooking the river Kaveri when she realised that there was no outrunning her pursuers. And now, legend has it, that Alamelamma uttered a curse, and jumped into the river, committing suicide. The curse is said to have been this: Let Talakad become a desert, let Malangi become a whirlpool and let the kings of Mysore forever remain childless.
The Keerthinarayana Swamy Temple, Talakad
And since then, legend has it that Talakad became covered with sand, and quite astonishingly, the two other parts of the curse remain true to this day. Malangi is indeed a whirlpool today and avoided by the locals. It might seem a little specious, but the Wodeyars too have remained childless every alternate generation since then. They have been adopting heirs for 400 years, and all of this seems to hinge on Alamelamma’s curse.
Of course, there are some theories that aim at explaining this. My grandfather, a retired geologist, has lived in Talakad for more than 50 years. He says that there is a simple scientific explanation. Covered by the river Kaveri on three sides, Talakad is basically a peninsula. It is almost in the form of a U-turn, called a meander. The Madhav Mantri Dam, the first boulder dam in India, was built in the 15th century by the Vijayanagar kings. This slowed the river’s waters down. And so, near the river’s meander, the sand from the river slowly deposited on the banks. As for the Wodeyars, it might be possible that they had a practise of marrying amongst close relatives which might have led to this. Again, these are all only conjectures, and we can’t be really sure about anything.
The Madhav Mantri Dam, Talakad
However it can be, the town of Talakad is a wonderful getaway from the hubbub of urban life. It is a perfect excuse for a lazy holiday. I remember my own childhood visits to Talakad, which comprised of long dips in the river and endless running up and down on the sand dunes. If you do plan a trip to Talakad, you would want to keep at least half a day aside to enjoy yourself.
How to get there
- Talakad is easily accessible by road, from either Bangalore or Mysore.
- You can get a taxi at reasonable prices, or simply hop on a bus that goes either directly to Talakad or T.Narsipura.
- Talakad is a 15 min bus ride from T.Narsipura and you can get a bus every 5 minutes from there.
What to do there
Head directly to the river banks, where you can also grab a quick lunch at the small restaurants there. And then you can set about exploring the dunes and temples around the area. Five famous Shiva Temples, called The Panchalingas are what the town is chiefly famous for. Every 12 years, the Panchalinga Darshana, a holy festival, is held on the banks of the river in Talakad. A Vishnu temple, the Keerthinarayanaswamy Temple, has been recently renovated after it had collapsed a few years back.
Today, illegal sand mining has drastically reduced the sand in the town, and impetuous tourists have littered the banks of the river, which makes for a doleful sight. One can only hope that this is eventually curbed, and Talakad returns to the enchanting state that it once used to be in.