A Village Named Smoking Rock-Hogenakkal

29th Aug, 2019

Three weeks ago, the Kaveri flooded its banks in Hogenakkal, a village on the Tamilnadu – Karnataka border, famed for its spectacular waterfalls. People of two villages along the river banks were evacuated as unprecedented floods entered houses along its banks and the place was closed to tourists.

The quiet village of Hogenakkal is located in the forested Melagiri hills. The River Chinnar meets the Kaveri here and plunges several meters as the Hogenakal Falls, one of the most spectaclular  waterfalls in India. It is a favorite of tourists from both the states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu, the river forming a natural boundary between the two states. People come to bathe in the healing waters infused with the goodness of medicinal herbs from the forests the river flows through. The hour- long coracle rides on the river which take visitors close to the rapids are very popular.

When we visited, coracle rides had been temporarily suspended as water levels remained dangerously high and bathing in the falls had been banned. The hanging bridge over the river, the bathing places, and barricades had either been damaged or were washed away in the floods.Hundreds of coracles were lying idle like giant mushrooms.

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A monkey frolics on one of the many upturned coracles near the coracle boarding point in Hogenakkal

Hgnkll (3)The Kaveri River in spate with its muddy flood waters was an impressive sight.

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The river Kaveri in Hogenakal

Not many know that this beautiful place with it wild alluring charm is also steeped in history. To know more about its past, both mythical and historical, we have to visit the Lord Siva temple in this village of the Smoking rock!

Smoking rock? Yes, it is what Hogenakkal means in Kannada. Hoge is smoke in the Kannada language and kallu is the Kannada word for stone or rock.

The Temple of Desa Nadheeswarar and Kaveri Amman

Hgnkll (22)The ancient Siva temple of Desa Nadheeswara is located on the Kaveri river bank, in the middle of this tiny village beside the waterfalls. The two main shrines are that of Lord Desa Nadheeswara and Goddess Kaveri Amman.

Hgnkll (16)My visit to Hogenakkal coincided with the last Friday of the Tamil month of Aadi. It was an auspicious day called Aadi Vellikizhamai in local parlance, a day dedicated to the worship of Amman (mother goddess) in all temples across Tamilnadu.

En route to Hogenakkal from Salem, we saw amman deities decorated with flowers being taken out in a procession even in the tiniest villages and hamlets. At many places road traffic slowed down as people waited for the processions to pass.

Reaching Hogenakkal around 1 p.m we went to the temple first, hoping it was open. It was and I was asked to visit the Kaveri Amman shrine first as it was closing time.

The shrine of goddess Kaveri Amman is located at the back of the temple. The idol of goddess Kaveri, the river goddess was beautifully decorated and I was pleasantly surprised when the priest gave me a pair of glass bangles along with prasad. In the month of Aadi, women offer glass bangles to Amman goddesses as a form of worship, the glass bangle being considered an object of auspiciousness. These are then given as prasad.

The elderly priest then opened the Siva temple which was partially closed. The beautifully decorated Sivalingam was a sight to behold as it shone in the light of oil and electric lamps.

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Desa Nadheeswarar and Brahma

The Lingam of Desa nadheeswara is a Suyambu or self-manifested lingam. And as the priest explained the history and significance of this sthala (holy place) and pointed out unique sculptures and idols, even a gold painted crocodile engraving on the ceiling, I was awed and spellbound. The temple is truly a jewel beside the Kavery River.

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Desa Nadheeswara is an unusual and beautiful name of lord Siva. Desa is a Sanskrit word that means ‘place’, ‘space’ or ‘country’. When it means place, it can be a particular place, a holy place or a temple. Desa nadheeswara, therefore refers to Siva who is the Lord of this place. In a broader sense the name means the One who is the Lord of the country and the nation.

Myths and History

Lord Brahma’s Yagna

Lord Brahma is believed to be constantly worshipping Siva with homam and puja in this temple. It is believed that Brahma acts as the priest and takes our prayers to the Lord and that all pujas in the temple are done by him.

At the inner entrance to the sanctum is an idol of Lord Brahma. He is depicted as sitting in front of a homa kundam, holding a ladle in his right hand and performing yagna in the sacrificial fire. This sculptural depiction of Brahma and the endearing reason behind his presence is one that is unique to this temple.

True to this story, the 20m deep gorges into which the Kaveri  falls is called Yagnakundam or Sacrificial pit.

Agasthya Maharishi

There are many different stories in mythology about the birth of River Kaveri.

According to one version, the story goes that Vishnumaya or Lopamudra, was the beautiful daughter of Lord Brahma who gave her in adoption to sage Kavera Muni who was praying for a daughter in the Brahmagiri hills. She was called Kaveri and she engaged in penance and meditation so that she may become a river pouring blessings on the earth. As a result of her devotions Brahma granted that she may become a river. Kaveri asked that she may be blessed to wash away the sins of the people who bathed in her waters.

Sage Agasthya Maharishi saw the beautiful tapasvini and asked her to marry him. She agreed on the condition that she would leave if she was left alone. One day the sage went to perform his austerities. Before leaving he turned Kaveri into water in his kamandala, a holy vessel used to store water. Lord Ganesha turned into a crow and tipped the vessel. Out flowed the Kaveri, and became a river, joyous, turbulent and full of life.

Sage Agasthya requested her to come back, but Kaveri divided herself, one half remaining with the sage and the other flowing as a river. Agasthya then instructed the river half on the path she should take to the eastern sea. She blessed the earth and like a mother brought succour to people and the lands on her way. She is worshipped as the mother goddess Kaveri, holy as the Ganga and therefore called Ganga of the South.

Another story goes that Lord Siva gave holy water to Sage Agasthya which he stored in his kamandala. Lord Ganesha, turned into a crow and toppled the vessel in the absence of the rishi. The water that flowed out became a life- giving river that gave sustenance to the land and people and washed their sins away.

Agasthya Maharishi is believed to have worshipped lord Desa Nadheeswarar  in this sthala. His image is carved on a pillar in the temple.

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Agasthya Maharishi

The Pandavas

The Pandavas, soon after the Mahabharatha war, came here to get the holy theertha of this river which was capable of absolving one of all sins.

References in Tamil Literature

In Sangam Age the waterfalls was called Thalai neer and the regions around the falls were called thalaineer Naadu. This was part of the ancient Sangam Age kingdom of King  Adhiyamaan Nedumaan Anji who ruled from Thagadur, which is present day Dharmapuri.

The old name of Hogenakkal was Ugu neer kal. Theru Koothu is a form of folk theatre that is enacted as dance-drama in the streets in Tamil nadu. It is an ancient folk tradition, almost 2000 years old belonging to the villages and towns in Tamilnadu, in which actors tell stories in a song and dance drama. Koothu taught the people about their culture and history. Even around 1940, in the theru koothu titled Saeman sandai(சேமன் சண்டை) enacted by the local people, a mendicant announces that he is going to bathe in the Holy Ganges and in the confluence of seas in Kumari, (present day Kanya kumari). To this the jester retorts by way of reply, ‘Why, can’t you just go to Uguneer kal which is nearby?’

Ugu neer kal in course of time became Hogenakkal. Untill the end of Tipu sultan’s rule over South India, tax-collectors and those in prominent positions were typically Kannada speaking people. As a result, names of places, mountains and rivers in and around Dharmapuri, were recorded as Kannada names in official taxation records, which was adopted by the British subsequently.

The Temple

Perhaps the first ancient Shiva temple on the Kaveri banks in Tamilnadu is the temple of Desha nadheshwarar at Hogenakkal. The temple is thought to have been originally built by Chola kings. The present temple was built by a local king and is very beautiful.

I was fascinated by the many pillared halls and mandapas with beautiful and sculptures on the pillars, and spent almost an hour admiring the sculptures. There are sculptures of the 64 Nayanmar saints of Saivism on the outer mandapa of the sanctum. The same pillars also depict the ten avataras of Mahavishnu. The emphasis is that God is one whether He is worshipped as Siva or as Vishnu.

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Desa Nadheeswarar Temple, Hogenakkal

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Worship at the temple

Prayers made at this temple concerning problems of childlessness are believed to be answered. This is also considered an important temple for warding off dosha of Pitru saabha. When the souls of ancestors in a family are not propitiated, it gives rise to discord in the family with family members constantly quarreling with one another. To remove this dosha, the priests conduct appropriate puja and devotees are asked to stay for five days in the temple.


The major festival is the festival of Aadi Pathinettu or Aadi Perukku  in July, when thousands throng the Kaveri river banks, especially in Hogenakkal to offer prayers to the river goddess.

Special pujas are also conducted on full moon days. These are largely attended by the local people and people from the many villages in the surrounding areas of Dharmapuri and Pennagaram.

The Smoke on the Rocks

It was time to leave, when the priest asked ‘Did you go to the river? Did you see the smoke on the rocks?’ Smoke on the rocks? It sounded incredible. He said, “Go down the road to the river. You can see the smoke on the rocks in the midst of the Kaveri, behind and  in line with the lingam of Desa Natheeswara.

When we went to the river, the entry to the falls was closed because of floods but far away, in the midst of the flowing Kaveri, we could indeed see smoke rising from the rocks!

The path of the Kaveri in Hogenakkal is across rocky terrain strewn with rocks and boulders. The river spreads out and forms a series of spectacular waterfalls as it cascades into deep gorges from a height of 20m. The fine spray that is thrown up looks like smoke, the smoke from the Yagnakunda of Brahma! Magical!

The view of the rocks from the temple is blocked by the many lodges but the phenomenon could be seen from the temple long ago. Hogenakkal – Smoke on the rocks -what a beautiful poetic name for this village beside the waterfalls!

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A closer view

The temple is very popular with the local people and also the people of several surrounding villages. It is clean and well maintained.


Hogenakkal  is situated 47 kms from Dharmapuri and 16 km from Pennagaram.

It lies at a distance of 100 km from Salem, roughly two hours by road.

Temple Timings

The temple is open from 7 a.m to 6 p.m. everyday.

External references:


Walk To A View Point- Karadiyur Viewpoint Yercaud

14th May, 2018

This summer, after a spell of scorching heat and dry weather we had our first summer rains in mid- April. A few more showers later, we even had a hailstorm; now with intermittent rains the days are actually cloudy and pleasant with cool nights!

I love the rains that come in summer for two reasons –

  • Summer rains are mostly late afternoon rains.
  • They are very dramatic (read loud and noisy!) with lots of lightning and loud claps of thunder overhead.

I love listening to the combined sounds of pouring rain and thunder and to feel the hot air change slowly to cool.

And in Salem, in summer when it rains, we know that it has rained in the hills as well.

Karadiyur View Point -Yercaud

Yercaud has many view-points and views are spectacular at all times of the year. Some of them like Lady’s Seat, Pagoda Point and the view-point near Servarayan temple are very popular with tourists. There are view-points that are not so well-known but located in beautiful locations in the hills.

Karadiyur viewpoint (10)

Karadiyur view point is one such vantage point located off Nagalur road at a distance of roughly 8 kms from Yercaud Lake. There is enough signage along the way to guide you. It is a vertical cliff overlooking a valley and it is promoted as part of eco-tourism in the hills by the Forest department which has erected a watch tower. This is also where the trekking route from Karadiyur view-point to Ull-gombai begins. The trekking route is a distance of 4.8 km.

Karadiyur, incidentally takes its name from karadi or bear as bears were once plentiful in the region.

Walk to the watch tower

To reach the watch tower you have to walk for a kilometer from the main road through the village and the forest. It is an easy walk and well worth the effort. The path is a delight as it passes through beautiful forest. I met very few people along the way.

Vehicles with good ground clearance can ply part of the way on the mud road, but the last 5oo metres have to be covered on foot. You can park your vehicle as we did near the sign on the main road which says, ‘Eco Tourism – way to Karadiyur View Point’.

Karadiyur viewpointKaradiyur viewpoint (6)

The path looked like this.

Karadiyur viewpoint (5)

Karadiyur viewpoint (4)

Slushy from the rains


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Karadiyur viewpoint (8)

From the watch tower the ground seems to literally fall away beneath your feet as a thickly forested valley and hills is spread out below and around you. It is a remarkable experience. Beyond the valley we could see lakes glistening in the distance.

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The watch tower

Karadiyur viewpoint (7)



Karadiyur viewpoint (11)

yercaud views

Karadiyur viewpoint (9)

The view-point is desolate and not frequented by tourists mainly because there are no roads leading right up to the view-point like the other view-points here. What is appealing about this place is that it is isolated and litter free.

Be sure to carry water and if accompanied by children, taking snacks with you is a good idea as there are no shops in the area. Also make sure that you are wearing suitable footwear.

This is the best place to visit for everyone who likes to enjoy quiet moments with nature.

Read more posts on Yercaud:

A Peek Into The Past

Gently Down The Lake In Yercaud

Favorite Place – Yercaud












Favorite Place – Yercaud


27th March,2018

Yercaud is my place to go in the hills when I need to get away. A cozy hill town, it is nestled in the Shevaroy hills amidst coffee plantations and forest and overlooks my hometown, Salem.

Every season in Yercaud is unique- colors of spring, mists and thunderstorms of summer, winter’s clear star-studded skies and always, the cool, pure mountain air. Over the years and over innumerable visits the charm of Yercaud never wanes and a couple of hours in the hills are all I need to feel refreshed.

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Daily Post Photo Challenge – Favorite Place

Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival at Pollachi

The Tamil Nadu International Balloon Festival (TNIBF) was hosted for the 4th consecutive year in Pollachi and was a major event of this year’s Pongal holidays. It was organized by Global Media Box and The Slaves, a Pollachi based restaurant with the support of Tamil Nadu Tourism Department and Adhiban Fincorp mainly to promote Pollachi as a tourist destination, and has become a very popular event.

Tamilnadu International balloon fest

Hot air ballooning is a sport that is not so common in India and people from Pollachi and nearby Coimbatore City (56 km from Pollachi) as well as tourists from other states enthusiastically visited the venue to witness the spectacle of colorful hot air balloons. This year’s special attraction was 2.0 Movie balloon. Visitors could go for hour long balloon rides in the morning and short tethered flights in the evening.

On the evening of my visit there were three balloons. I expected to see more as ten balloons with pilots from many countries had participated in the festival. Still it was thrilling to watch the balloons inflate and rise in the air and as darkness set in, the night sky with glowing balloons was truly a sight to remember.

These are some pictures from the festival. I apologise for the quality of the pictures as my Sony point and shoot camera is not very good for taking night pictures. Still you get the general idea!

Tamilnadu International balloon fest. 2018 (2)

Tamilnadu International balloon fest. 2018 (3)

Tamilnadu International balloon fest. 2018 (4)

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2.0 Movie balloon
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A glowing view of  2.0 Movie Balloon

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up above the coconut trees

Tamilnadu International balloon fest. 2018 (11)

Tamilnadu International balloon fest. 2018
The festival grounds before the event

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A Visit to Ooty Government Botanical Garden

Entrance of ooty botanical garden

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There was a light drizzle when we visited the Ooty Government  Botanical Garden on a Sunday morning in August. The weather forecast was for rain with a chance of thunder-showers. The light rain did not deter visitors to this most popular garden; most of them carried umbrellas or wore hooded jerkins and rain coats.

Ooty Botanical garden is one of the most beautiful places in the hill-station. It belongs to the colonial era, an expression of the traditional love of gardens of the British. The initial layout of the Ooty Botanical gardens was prepared by the Marquis of Tweedale in the late 1940s with the prime purpose of growing vegetables and supplying them to European residents at an affordable rate. In 1847 funds were raised to transform the venue into a horticultural society and public garden. The garden was designed by William Graham McIvor, a professional gardener from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. McIvor arrived in Ooty in 1848 and it took ten years for the garden to be completed.

The gardens are laid out on the slopes of Doddabetta and the entrance is at the bottom of the hill, so you have to climb your way up to tour the ascending gardens. It is landscape gardening at its most alluring, the layered beauty of the bright green lawns, the flower beds, and shrubbery in a series of terraces against a backdrop of thick woods and some of the tallest trees making it a magical place.

Spread over 22 hectares it has several sections.There is a Lower garden, a New garden, the Italian garden, a conservatory built in 1912 and many nurseries.


Beautiful lawns -Ooty botanical gardens
Beautiful lawns -Ooty botanical gardens

India map Ooty bot.garden

The map of India is a carpet-bed design made with bedding plants of different colors. It shows all the states clearly and is a major landmark in the garden. Opposite the India Map is another main attraction of the garden, a fossil tree trunk from the National fossil Park at Tiruvakkarai in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu which is more than 20 million years old. It is a great favorite with tourists.

Fossilized tree trunk- link to the past
Fossilized tree trunk- link to the past
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A private residence inside the botanical garden, Ooty

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Ooty botanical garden
Ooty botanical garden
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Layered terraces and lawns in the Botanical garden, Ooty
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An archway in the Botanical garden of Raj Bhavan, Ooty
Carpet-bed garden design,Ooty
Carpet-bed garden design,Ooty

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Paved pathways lead up to the many levels of the garden. I had fond memories of the Toda mund at the very top of the garden from an earlier visit many years ago. And so we climbed higher and higher enjoying the breathtaking views of the gardens, stopping to rest and to take pictures, inhaling the eucalyptus scented air. At one place the air was heavily scented from the magnolia blossoms on a row of magnolia trees. It was a very pleasant walk.

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Massive! A giant tree in the Botanical garden,Ooty

Toda Mund

At the very top of the hill slopes the paved pathways and landscaped gardens end and we followed a mud path that went up through the woods of towering pine and eucalyptus trees. This path takes you to the Toda mund which is a settlement of the Todas, the indigenous tribe of the Nilgiris. On reaching the grassy meadow of Toda mund, I was heartened to see that nothing had changed. At the far end of the beautiful meadow is the Toda temple which you can see from outside. It is built in a circular pit, a curved structure made of grass, bamboo and cane and stone,and has a tiny entrance. The front wall is decorated with symbols – of the sun, moon and the sacred buffalo.

There was a herd of sacred buffaloes under the shady trees at the top of the meadow. One or two stood up on our arrival, to inspect intruders like ourselves, and then went back to chewing cud. It is beautiful up at the Toda Mund. Traditional Toda dwellings are gone and the Todas live in modern houses. But the temple remains symbolic of a people who zealously follow their unique culture. Behind the temple the hills rise up, terraced farms forming layers of green on the hill-sides.

Toda Mund,Ooty
Toda Mund,Ooty
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Toda temple Ooty
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Toda temple,Ooty

On the walk back to the Botanic gardens we took a different path, as the mud path was wet and slippery, stopping to chat and ask directions from the garden workers.

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Beauty of fallen tree trunks on sloping lawns- Ooty
Canons and viewing places
Canons and viewing places


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It was noon when we left the gardens. There is a Tibetan market just opposite the main entrance that sold knitwear. Here we were directed to a Momo restaurant further down the road where they serve Tibetan cuisine. Piping hot bowls of veg.Thukpa and hot momos were just right for a rainy day!

Other posts on Ooty:

OOTY – A Weekend in August

Stone House Museum – Ooty

Rose Garden Ooty-For All Lovers of Roses




Rose Garden Ooty-For All Lovers of Roses

hillside landscaping

Situated on the slopes of Elk Hill, Rose Garden, Ooty is one of the largest rose gardens in India and its collection of roses among the largest in the world. April – May is the best time to visit the gardens for spectacular displays of roses.

According to the Tamil Nadu Horticultural department, “Centenary Rose Park, Udhagamandalam owes its genesis to the Centenary Flower Festival. It covers an area of 4.00 Ha comprising of five terraces. The Rose Garden is situated in the lower slopes of the Elk Hill in Vijayanagaram Farm on the North Western side facing the Udhagamandalam Town. 

The Rose varieties planted in this Garden were assembled from different sources i.e., Bangalore, Chandigarh, Kodaikanal, Yercaud besides Nilgiris and more than 25,000 Rose plants of 3800 varieties have been planted. The collection includes Floribundas, Polyanthes, Miniatures, Hybrid Teas and Creepers. Gradually, it is proposed to increase the number of varieties to 50000 by introducing new varieties from different Centers in India and abroad. The Garden includes major attractions such as Arches, Bowers, Tunnels, Umbrellas, Green Houses, and Fountains and ‘Nila Maadam’ stone lanterns, rockeries, etc.”

divine beauty of rose buds

ooty rose

The workers in the garden warned us that the flowers were few in this rainy season (August) and that season time was April –May. There were 4000 varieties of roses spread over five sloping terraces.

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shades of red


The garden has beautiful walkways and landscaped terraces on the sloping hillside and it takes an hour or two to see everything..well, almost everything!!..It’s so big. Situated on the hill slopes, it offers lovely views of Ooty. A great place to visit!

pink rose dm

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cen. rose garden

rose garden


kids at play





OOTY – A Weekend in August

There was a long holiday for Vinayaka Chaturthi in the last week of August and a visit to Ooty was planned rather suddenly. We were on our way by three in the afternoon on Friday, 25th August, had reached Mettupalayam in the foothills by six or seven and arrived in Ooty by nine p.m. slowed down a bit by all the vehicles on the winding mountain road..all holiday makers like ourselves. It looked as if everyone had the same brainwave that we had.. namely a holiday in Ooty!!It was after dark that we negotiated the mountain road and passed many mountain villages. What made the journey memorable was that the villages were decked with festive lights and we passed many colorful Ganesha pandals. We passed many village temples as well which were open at that late hour and could see people going home from the temples. It was Vinayaka chaturthi after all… and I remember thinking how nice that we were travelling on this special day and could see all the happy scenes.

Ooty is one of the most popular hill stations of India. Much has been written about this beautiful town in the Blue mountains – The Nilgiris. This post and the next few ones are my memories of a wonderful holiday and I hope you enjoy reading about them.


On Saturday morning after breakfast,the first place of visit was Doddabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris at 2636 MSL(  8,650 ft.),8km from Ooty. The flat summit has a reserve forest area around it and is accessible by road. This is a most popular tourist destination in Ooty.

The spectacular views of Ooty from the observation tower are out of this world and on clear days many important places near Ooty  can be seen. The place has a cafeteria for snacks and tea. It’s a lovely place where everyone tends to linger, to enjoy the 360 degree views, the strong winds,the mists and the August drizzles and to take pictures.

Doddabetta, ooty

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View from the Observation Tower in Doddabetta, Ooty
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The Telescope and observation tower, Doddabetta, Ooty
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Doddabetta. Ooty
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Doddabetta, Ooty
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A Time for fun…in Doddabetta Ooty

Benchmark Tea Factory, Tea Museum, Chocolate Factory

On the way back from Doddabetta peak we were given discount coupons to be used in Benchmark Tea factory and Museum. So our next stop was Benchmark Tea factory which was located about 4km from Doddabetta. Tourists are given a guided tour of the factory where you can read about the history of tea and other interesting information in the beautifully illustrated pictures around the museum. You can see the tea leaves being dried and processed. You can sample nine different varieties of tea free of cost. Chocolate is made here and visitors can taste a free sample. You can buy varieties of tea and chocolates and eucalyptus oil at the retail counters in the premises.

The next place we visited was the Government museum which is the subject of my next post.

Late afternoon we went to the beautiful Ooty lake and went boating. Then it started to rain! And then one of the pedals on the pedal boat came off and back we came to the boathouse. While TTDC did ask us to take another boat we had had enough boating for the day. 

These are some pictures on the history of tea taken inside the Benchmark Tea museum.

benchmark -Ooty

Emperor Shen Nung (2)

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View from the Benchmark tea factory
A view from Benchmark Tea Museum