Monday, January 09, 2006

Kodaikanal - The Pristine Beauty





Though my blog is called Kodai Hills, so far I have not written anything on Kodai – the place that’s deeply rooted in my heart and soul, for it is a cradle of serenity with its pristine beauty and intoxicating aroma. The terrific tranquillity of Kodaikanal is simply awesome and infact, the serenity experienced at Kodaikanal is seldom found in other hill stations. Arguably, Kodaikanal is the most beautiful and the best-preserved hill station in the sub-continent.The summer retreat of Kodaikanal literally means gift of the forest and remains true even today.

Though there are many site in the web on Kodaikanal, I am unable to provide a reference as the information is in bits and pieces and their authenticity is questionable. Hence, I have decided to collect and present my own account, which I’m sure will be more authentic and informative.

History

Kodai Hills has a history as old as time. There are references to Kodaikanal in the Tamil Sangam literature of the early Christian era. In the pre-historic times, the primitive tribes of Paliyans and Pulyans resided near the Palani Hills and their descendants still live here in many of the hamlets. There is proof of settlement of prehistoric tribes at Kodaikanal by visible artifacts such as dolmens homes of great stone slabs. After the primitive tribes of Paliyans and Pulyans, in 14th century, villagers of Palani foot hills fled into Kodai hills, to escape from the oppressive rule in the plains and also from the invasion of Tippu Sultan.

Kodaikanal as a hill station was set-up by the Americans, though the British soon joined.The first European to visit Kodaikanal was Lt. B.S. Ward a surveyor in the year 1821. His Head Quarters was Vellagavi village. The irony is that, till now there’s no road to this village and to the many settlements in and around Vellagavi. The Hill bananas and the oranges from this village are exotic as they are cultivated without the user or any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

During the Raj, the British / Americans could not bear the oppressive heat in Madurai and they faced sickness from epidemic diseases and consequential deaths. They wanted neat and healthy natural surroundings near Madurai to rest and improve their health. They were happy to find from the report of Lt. B.S. Ward about the hills with wonderful climate and easy accessibility from Madurai & Periyakulam. Many English and American missionary people visited Kodaikanal through various routes. Notable among them are J C Wroughton -Sub Collector, C R Cotton Judge and Dr. Weight. Dr.Fane built two houses in 1845 in the lake road. More houses were built by British Govt. The American Missionaries moved in and built a lot of dwellings in the southern side which is still there and now called 'Sunny Side' and 'Shelton' . In the year 1860, the first church was built jointly by the Bishop. American Madurai Mission built the union church in 1895.

From year 1860, there was all round improvement due to the visit of several dignitaries. Roman Catholics came, purchased a bungalow for Jesuit fathers, as rest house which is now called La Providence in upper shola road. Governors of Madras Sir Charles Travelyon and Lord Napier visited in the years 1860 and 1871. One major JM Partridge of the army introduced Eucalyptus and wattle trees in the year 1867. Bier Leverage, collector of Madurai lived in Pamhar house after his retirement. Only through his tireless efforts and initiative the artificial Kodaikanal lake, the foremost attraction of the tourists was formed. He arranged boat rides in the lake. He planned and executed several approach roads to Kodaikanal. He introduced several foreign trees and vegetables such as Pine Forms and Pears. In the year 1872 Lt. Coaker cut a path along the ridge of steep south eastern side which commends a magnificent view of the plains below. The path was named after him as Coaker's Walk and even today it offers a good walk with the panoramic view.

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Kodaikanal lies in the Palani hills which is the eastern offshoot of the Western Ghats covering an area of 2400 Sq. Kms, and the town of Kodaikanal is centrally located. The Palani Hills is the main watershed for the Vaigai (South) and Amaravathi (Cauvery) (North) Basins. Geographically, Kodaikanal is located at a latitude of 10°7' N to 10°20' N and a longitude of 77°16' E to 77°45' E. Kodaikanal is situated at an altitude of about 2,133 m.




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Roads to Kodai

There are two ways which we can reach Kodai. One is the road via Batlagundu on the Kodai Ghat Road (58 KMs) whose gradient is brilliantly engineered with just 2 hairpin bends, thanks to the British who did the origional formation of the road. This is a double road ( 7.5 m in width) and is always well maintained. It wouldn't be fair to Kodaikanal not to show the beauty of the vegetation here and this scene everyone must know who was coming to Kodai as you must pass this road to get and to go from there. Enjoy this road, 1.5 to 2 hours drive through the mountains to the town. I did this road several times with the bike, many times broke my record descending this road in even less than 50 minutes - the bike ride in this road is a an ecstasy.

The other road is the one that emanates from Palani, which is called as the Kodai-Palani Ghat Road (62 KMs) poorly aligned and designed with 21 hair-pin bends, thanks(?!) to the Highways Department who did the formation in 1970 and this road became operational in 1975, the year in which I was born :). Both the roads meet at a place called Perumal Malai which is just 12 KMs from Kodaikanal.


Kodaikanal is 120 KMs and takes 3 1/2 Hours from Madurai via the Kodai Ghat Road. There are frequent buses from Madurai and cab would cost you Rs. 1200 (Ambassador, Indica etc) to Rs 1500 (Quoalis, Sumo etc) depending on the vehicle.

From chennai or Bangalore, the distance is 520 KMs and I recommend you to take up any of the Chennai - Madurai train and descent at Kodai Road Jn. Kodiakanal is 70 KMs from here via the Kodai Ghat Road and a cab would cost you Rs 800 to Rs 1200. There are also direct buses (KSRTC, TNSEC,KPN, Parveen ) from Chennai and Bangalore that takes approximately 12 Hours.

From Coimbatore, Kodai is 175 KMs via the Kodai-Palani Ghat Road. There are direct buses from Coimbatore, Erode, Thiripur, Sathyamangalam, Gobi and frequest buses from Palani. From Palani, the cab would cost you Rs 800 to Rs1200.

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Places to see

Rat Tail Falls View



As soon as you ascend the Kodai Ghat road, at the 12 th KM, there is a place called DUM DUM Rock that provides a panoramic view of the Rat Tail Falls and the Manjalaar Dam. There is a view tower from where you can have a real good view and is worth a few snaps.






Silver Cascade


Silver Cascade waterfall is located on the Kodai Ghat Road about 8-km before you reach Kodaikanal. This is an artificial cascade in which the overflow of Kodai Lake drops down from about 180 feet high. This waterfall can be delightful and impressive when the fall is in full spate.






Kodai Lake

Kodaikanal Lake is a 24-hectare lake bounded by a 5 km long road and the central point of Kodai. The tree-fringed lake greets everyone in the crisp early morning and is the cool heart of Kodaikanal. It is the legacy of the then Collector, Sir Vere Livinge, who formed it by damming the valley where three streams flowed. There is a Boat Club that provides the tourists with Rowing Boats and Pedalling boats and a public ferry. If you are visiting Kodai as a couple, I recommend you to take a ride in the Shikara boat offered by the Carlton Boat House. Boat Race and various competitions are held every year during the Summer Festival.


Coaker's Walk

About a kilometre from the lake is Coaker's Walk that runs along a steep, emerald green wooded slope , offering a breathtaking panorama of the plains, the Vaigai Dam and the distant hills. This hill-edge path way was identified by Er. Coaker of the Royal Engineers, in 1872 and hence is named after him. There is a rugged pristine beauty about these vistas, and the mist rising in veils from the valley below, makes this place a heavenly abode.

Upper Lake View

Upper Lake View is 3.2 kilometres from Coaker's Walk on the way to Green Valley View and provides a magnificent view of the Kodai Lake and is worth a couple of snaps. The first picture in this post is the Upper Lake View.

Green Valley View

Driving along the cool green darkness with the trees making a canopy overhead, one reaches Green Valley View, formerly known as the Suicide Point, portrays a stunning view of the valley dressed and undulating green velvet carpet of vegetation and also commands a beautiful view of the entire Vaigai Dam. Here too, the mist rises from the valley, imparting a solemn, out-of-this-world beauty to the scene. The prestigious Kodai Golf Club is located that a colonial legacy

Pillar Rocks

Thick woods line the road leading to the Pillar Rocks. These are three vertical pillars standing shoulder to shoulder measuring 112 m and a cross hoisted in one of the pillars. The ground drops sheer below them, creating a dramatic impact and affording a stupendous view of the valley below. Soon mists wrap up the pillars in mystery and one wonders whether they are real, or whether they were a figment of one's imagination. Then the sun melts the mists away and the rocks rise, solemn and majestic, dappled in sun and shadow: the effect is ethereal and awe-inspiring. There is a small garden with widest range of flowers

Devil’s Kitchen

Rediscovered by Kamal Hassan in shooting his film Guna, this place is now called as the Guna Cave. The cave is formed as a chamber between the two rocks of the Pillar Rocks and presents a view as if it is an abyss.

Moir Point

Yet another View point after the devil’s kitchen on the Kodai – Cochin road, present am amazing view of a steep valley, the hills and a few hamlets (Chinnoor, Periyoor) located in the mountains ro sometimes a herd of hibex grazing in the mountains. There is a forest check-post here to prohibit unauthorized entry beyond this point through the road leading to Munnar via Berijam Lake. Also, a road leading to the the Goshen road (This is a road that originated from Observatory Road and streatches to may hamlets like Poombarai, Kavunji, Mannavanoor, Kookaal etc.) meets at this point completing the famous 14 miles round.



Berijam Lake

Berijam lake - 21 kms from Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu is the most beautiful lake in all of South India. Originally discovered by the British & Spanish people, this place was a swamp 80-100 years ago. It has been converted to a lake with catchment areas around the lake. the lake itself is situated in a very high altitude...just a couple of hundred feet below kodai. The lake has very pure water and is the main source of water for a town called Periyakulam which is situated in the valley below Kodaikanal. Besides this, there are fantastic pine forests around the lake and theres something about pine trees and the fog and the lake and You have to see it to believe it !!


You only get permission to stay in Berijam till the evening, but if you are persuasive enough, you can get permission to stay overnight in Berijam ! There is a dormitory at Berijam, which can serve as a base for trekking. There is a canteen too with a friendly cook who'll cook anything for you, provided you have had the brains to shop for vegetables and stuff before getting here. Prakash, the cook will whip up anything you want to eat without any complaints. Iwould suggest you carry eggs and bread. This is the best breakfast you can have before you start on that wildest trek in your life !
You will realize the worth of the pain involved in getting the permission from the Forest Office, once you reach the Berijam Lake View - a spectacular view of a serene valley of shola forests with its diverse medicinal and aromatic plants and the lake resting like a pool of panacea in its bosom. There’s also a forest watch tower which provides an enthralling view of the same from an elevated point. Just 3 kilometers from this point is a shola called the Mathikettan Shola (people are sure to get mad on entering this shola because of the diverse variety of medicinal and aromatic plants it). This is preserved as on of the many endangered shola forests in Kodiakanal. There is also a possibility that your sight might catch up the glimpses of some fauna like Bisons, Nilgiri Lemurs, flying squirrels and deers.

Though boating is not allowed in this lake, it still remains as the most favoured picnic spot not only for the tourists but also for the locals. Don’t miss Berijam if you are visiting Kodai. From Berijam Lake, the road leads to Munnar (another paradise on earth) and is closed for the tourists. This road is another masterpiece left to us by the British. The road was operative till 1990 (the last time I took this road was in 1987 in a Jeep along with Gemini Ganesh and his family) but was ignored both by the Forest Department and Highways Department on a dispute over its ownership. Though the road is completey damaged till the Tamilnadu border, you can see that it is superbly maintained once you enter the Kerala border. Thanks to the Forest, Highways and the Tourism Depts of Kerala.

Goshen Road

To be continued............


13 comments:

Arun said...

I once called this hill a graveyard (Highly Offensvie?) and vowed never to come back. Thats for different reasons, but I do love this beautiful hill. Do You like being there alone?

Pradeep Anthony said...

It is wonderful to see the entire serenic beauty of the Kodai hills described in print by the appropriate person who has the memories of the place running in his heart. Talking about the ghat road and Silver cascade bridge, I hope it would be worth if u could also kindly mention ur role in shaping it.

Pradeep Anthony said...

It is wonderful to see the entire serenic beauty of the Kodai hills described in print by the appropriate person who has the memories of the place running in his heart. Talking about the ghat road and Silver cascade bridge, I hope it would be worth if u could also kindly mention ur role in shaping it.

Anonymous said...

Really i was happy to know about kodaikanal.It was very interesting to read.U bought the entire kodaikanal in front of my eyes SUBHA

Shiva said...

Thanks for the comment Subha

Shirsha said...

Surely another trip to Kodai has to be made, to round up all those places which we didn't visit. If only we visited your blog earlier :)

priya said...

It brings back my days in kodai when I made a trip. I think went to the caves where the kamal film was shot. Well not deeper, but close to it where you can view it down.

Shiva said...

Priya - The cave is origionally called as the Devil's kitchen. After, Kamal shot is film, it become synonymous with the film that, it known only as Guna Caves. Missing the damn place like hell!

Jeevan said...

I have been to Kodai two times, but I don’t know the details of the Kodai history much and some deep information about the sights. That’s a gifted place for us by nature. The early morning mist and cool breeze are above awesome…. I like the way towards Barijam, and the pic of the Coaker's Walk here was wonderful Shiva.

I was in tooth pain, but I couldn’t stop reading about my fav place Kodaikanal. Will check other post afterwards:)

Shiva said...

Jeevan, thanks for visiting and taking time to go through the post. It is indeed a paradise on earth.

I'm sure your tooth pain will subside soon. Take some good rest.

Take Care

sushilsingh said...

Hi,Friend

Kodaikanal is one of the most famous hill stations in India.Kodaikanal is a hill station

on the southern tip of the upper Palani Hills. Kodai is also a tourist attraction, and

many of the locals make their living through tourist services. Kodaikanal is

sometimes referred to as "Princess of Hill stations." Tucked away among the Palani

Hills in Tamilnadu, in South India, and jealously guarded like a prized jewel by the

dark forests, is Kodaikanal. In fact, the name itself means ?gift of the forest? in

Tamil.

http://desidirectory.com/india-travel-guide/

sushilsingh said...

Hi,Friend

Kodaikanal is one of the most famous hill stations in India.Kodaikanal is a hill station

on the southern tip of the upper Palani Hills. Kodai is also a tourist attraction, and

many of the locals make their living through tourist services. Kodaikanal is

sometimes referred to as "Princess of Hill stations." Tucked away among the Palani

Hills in Tamilnadu, in South India, and jealously guarded like a prized jewel by the

dark forests, is Kodaikanal. In fact, the name itself means ?gift of the forest? in

Tamil.

http://desidirectory.com/india-travel-guide/

k said...

hi.. I already knew about this Beautful Kodai hills and surrounding villages.. I had made already trekking with our cheetah gang.. Nice experience..know..?