Vani Vilasa Sagara - Beautiful reservoir and an Engineering marvel

As we grow older, our time with our parents becomes more limited. I believe that at some point in our adult lives we should take the time to travel with our parents. My parents are the coolest and supportive of my travelling endeavours. When it comes to planning the trip with my parents, I take extra care to choose places of their interest - mostly architecture and nature. We decided to take a trip to Shimoga to meet our grandparents. A list of places marked down on the way and we started out to hit the Tumkur road. The first destination - Vani Vilasa Sagara / Marikanive dam in Chitradurga.

Brief on Vani Vilasa Sagara Dam / Marikanive dam

Vani Vilas Sagar Dam/ Vani Vilasa Sagara, also known as Mari Kanive, is the oldest dam of Karnataka built 103 years ago. It is located in Hiriyur taluk of Chitradurga district, which is 160 km from Bangalore. The dam is an exquisite piece of architecture, an engineering marvel for that time, and provides water to lots of surrounding cities, towns and villages, which are largely dry lands of the Deccan area of Central Karnataka.

[caption id="attachment_6610" align="alignright" width="145"] Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhana -Wikipedia[/caption]

Maharani Vani Vilasa of Mysore

The Mysore Maharajas built the dam across the Vedavathi River before Independence. The construction was initiated by Maharani Vani Vilasa Sannidhana Kempananja CI, the regent queen (widow of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar) under the guidance of Dewan Sheshadri Iyer. She is known in the history of Mysore of her exemplary social works and as a great administrator. The British Government awarded her with the honour "Crown of India" (which is suffixed as CI at the end of her name) for her commendable administration.


On Friday early morning, we were all set for the trip from Bangalore. We started from the Tumkur road with our car and filled the fuel tank in Shell, 8th mile. A soothing music to start the day playing in the background and good vibes. Mom had prepared breakfast - Tamarind rice and packed. This the best part of the family trips - Homemade packed food to the rescue. Post-Tumkur, we stopped roadside farm and had the breakfast.

On reaching Hiriyur, we took left near Marikanive Gate and drove along TH road. The Google map shows the correct route, so just follow it. This stretch from the highway to the dam is almost 17km and comprises of villages, farms and gives a glimpse of countryside life of Chitradurga. After reaching the actual point, we could notice a temple - Kanive Maramma temple. It looked crowded on account of a festival. We thought to visit it later and headed towards the dam.

[caption id="attachment_6592" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-11 The first view of the dam - from the road ! - It looked huge and majestic[/caption]


If you have to reach the dam, keep driving ahead and a certain right after a hill will take you the viewing point of the dam. Be free to ask localites, they are happy to help. This is a slight uphill, on reaching we found a well-maintained office and a spacious parking area. We parked here and started walking to witness the dam.

The mesmerising view of the reservoir

The monsoon winds blowing in this high area accompanied us to the viewpoint. The moment the view of the reservoir unfolded - We were awestruck by its beauty. It is an absolute picturesque scene. Imagine a valley between two green hills and a water body amidst these hills curling them up. Dense sky with monsoon clouds and the calm water of the reservoir. Isn't that a fantastic sight? The gigantic windmills installed on those hills were harnessing the wind energy - Yes, the winds are strong here throughout the year and Chitradurga is known for windmills. The view of the reservoir was spectacular and pleasing. Trees at the viewing point and concrete benches to relax and view the beauty whole day. The fact that impressed me was that the conservation of nature while building the reservoir.


[caption id="attachment_6580" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Monsoon winds and trees at the viewpoint[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6614" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-31 The panoramic view of the Vani Vilasa Sagara - I was literally awestruck :)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6582" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Natural reservoir - Valley between two green hills - An amazing view :)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6581" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-02 Windmills atop the hills harnessing the wind energy[/caption]

The stone pavilion with beautiful arches

We marched ahead taking the steps that lead to the dam. The sturdy steps cut through a small hill and are in zig-zag fashion, well constructed. A couple of viewpoints to enjoy the view of the reservoir as we descended. After few minutes, I could notice the gigantic dam crest - It looked magnificent with an overall length of 400m.

[caption id="attachment_6583" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-04 Zig zag steps to the dam[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6590" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-14 Rock fashion built to support the steps[/caption]

The dam crest stands between two pavilion halls built in Saracenic (Indo-Islamic) architecture. The hall configurations provide the visual termination to this large dam. The halls are symmetrical with beautiful arches and spandrels - which makes a great composition for pictures. Inside the halls, there are inscriptions describing the beauty of the Marikanive project. The honorary mentions are engrained here for Maharani Vani Vilasa and the entire team.

[caption id="attachment_6584" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-05 Pavilion hall in Saracenic architecture - Side view[/caption]

[gallery ids="6596,6600" columns="2" size="full"]

[caption id="attachment_6599" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-21 Pavilion hall - Front view[/caption]

The elegant dam view

The area of the dam crest is large and spacious. The view of the reservoir from the dam crest is amazing and gives the complete picture of the reservoir. The parapet walls along the dam are well built and give a great support for the visitors to check out the water depth. The steps looked like a snake trail from the dam crest because of zig-zag fashion. The other side of the dam has the village view with green farms and villages who consume the dam water. The place is not crowded and an ideal for quality time with friends and family. People here were enjoying the beauty of the dam taking lazy strolls along the dam crest.

[caption id="attachment_6597" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-15 The first view of the dam crest! - It is 400m in length[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6616" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-33 The sturdy dam crest built 103 years ago :)[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6615" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-33 Still standing strong and daunting ;-) - Higher than KRS dam of Mysore[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6603" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-22 An amazing view of the dam, reservoir and nature around[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6601" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-23 The snake trail of steps - looks great though :P[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6607" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-26 The upstream side of the dam[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6602" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-28 The downstream side of the dam[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_6586" align="aligncenter" width="640"] The green farms consuming the dam water[/caption]

The dam is 400m in length and 45m in height. In fact, it is higher than the KRS dam of Mysore - That's Incredible! The strong sturdy dam built 103 years ago still remains the same and revives the vision of the engineers at that time. Proud of them!

The ambitious project

The dam was designed and constructed by a team led by Sir M Visveraya and Tara Chand Dalal. The project commenced in 1898 and completed in 1907. It is built across Vedavathi river and is known as the first natural reservoir built between two hills.  The purpose of the dam was mainly irrigation and reservoir of domestic water for Chitradurga.

[caption id="attachment_6604" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-24 The dam is capable of storing 30tmcft of water - which is almost equivalent to 1.5 times of the Bangalore water consumption annually.[/caption]

Fact file

This largest reservoir has not completely filled in eight decades due to inadequate rainfall. The dam is capable of storing 30tmcft of water - which is almost equivalent to 1.5 times of the Bangalore water consumption annually. Currently, the water level was 70 feet - which remains as the storage and not helpful until the reservoir receives more water. This largest dam is a good visiting spot and is gaining tourist importance recently.

The Kanive Maramma temple

After spending some time at the dam, we started descending on the other end which leads to the Kanive Maramma temple we noticed on the way. We visited this ancient temple and bowed to the goddess.

[caption id="attachment_6608" align="aligncenter" width="640"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-29 The Kanive Maramma temple[/caption]

Overall, this is an amazing unexplored place to visit with family and friends around Bangalore. Not much crowded and one can surely enjoy the peaceful time gazing at the reservoir. A combination of nature and engineering made it our favourite place. After a while, we started driving towards Chitradurga fort.

[caption id="attachment_6593" align="alignright" width="320"]vani-vilasa-sagara-marikanive-dam-16 Signing off with this beautiful picture I got here :)[/caption]

Stay tuned for my next travel experience :)

Lots of love,
Smitha :)

Read other travelogues near Bangalore:
1. Siddara Betta - Trekking the hill of Saints
2. Melukote, Thonnur lake and Ranganathittu – A memorable day outing
3. Vishwa Shanti Ashram visit – Glimpse of Mahabharatha
4. Biligiri | BR Hills and Himavad hills
5. Devarayanadurga – Exploring rocks and hills 
6. Namada Chilume – Spring of Tilaka
7. SRS hills - Sri Revanna Siddeshwara hills - Ride to the Holy hills
8. Makalidurga trek – Hiking the hill fort

Read my recent travelogues near Udupi and Mangalore:
1. Kapu beach - The Pristine Seashore
2Sultan Battery Mangalore – Tipu’s Watchtower

3. Tannirbhavi beach – Pine trees, beach huts and a glimpse of fishing
4. Kateel temple – A True feel of divinity
5. Maravanthe beach – Bond of sea and river
6. Agumbe – Drive through the Deadly Western Ghats 
7. Kere Basadi – Bliss of Varanga Jain temples [ Udupi trip Part-2 ]
8. Udupi Sri Krishna Matha [Udupi trip Part-1]

Visiting tips

  1. How to reach Vani Vilasa Sagara- The place is 160kms from Majestic, Bangalore.

    • By train - Nearest railway station is Challakere, which is very far. So I don't suggest train route.

    • By bus - There are KSRTC buses from Bangalore to Hiriyur road. From the main road, it is 17kms, we need to take an auto or a taxi.

    • By private vehicles - The best mode to reach is by car/ bike. There is  parking near temple as well as near the dam viewpoint

  2. Timings - The entry timings for dam viewpoint - 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM

  3. Entry fee - It's free. It's also mentioned if anybody charging in case of dam visit, you can report to the office.

  4. When to visit - Throughout the year during sunrise/sunset would be ideal.

  5. The mobile network is available here all time.

  6. Quiet, peaceful and not much crowd.

  7. Please don't dump trash here. I could notice some plastics thrown carelessly. Better collect the trash and dispose it rightly.

Smitha N


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