Kolli Hills – Pristine and Pure

KOLLI HILLS

Kolli Hills is a beautiful mountain range located in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu in South India. Its altitude ranges from 1000 to 1300 meters above mean sea level and enjoys a pleasant, healthful climate round the year. The hills are spread over an area of 440 sq. kilometers. When viewed from National Highway 44 on the Rasipuram-Namakkal stretch, it appears as a flat-topped mountain range.

Remote, untouched by commercialization and retaining its historical charm Kolli Malai as it is called locally seems frozen in time.

History

  • Kolli Malai is said to be the exquisite Madhuvanam (the forest of honey) zealously maintained by vaanara king Sugreeva that is mentioned in the Sundara kandam of the Ramayana. The Madhuvanam was a protected grove where there was plenty of honey. Even today, this is a land of tropical fruits, honey and medicinal herbs just as it would have been in the Ramayana period.
  • It was a land favoured by siddars, the ancient medicine men of Tamil Nadu.

Kolli hills in the songs of the bards

In a distant past dating more than 2000 years ago, there lived wandering bards who travelled across ancient Tamil Nadu and were much respected by kings. They had the freedom to visit any kingdom and write songs on all they saw and observed. Tamil Sangam literature hence comes across as a treatise of gross truth told in a style that is at once blunt and poetical. The Kolli hills have been eulogized and glorified by many of these poets. It has a rich history as the kingdom of Mazhavar and Chera kings, It was a coveted kingdom and wars were fought and kings died trying to defend the kingdom.

Kolli hills are mentioned in these books of sangam literature:

  1. Purananooru
  2. Agananooru
  3. Natrinai
  4. Kurunthogai
  5. Pathitrupathu

Beautiful And Magical                  

Named after Kolli Paavai, the maiden goddess who guards these hills, Kolli hills still casts its spell on visitors. Much of the area is relatively unexplored and inaccessible, Myths abound and stories are told that are bizarre and spooky. Yes, it is true that a Kolli hills has a reputation. It is the favored destination of astrologers and practitioners of witchcraft and tantric practices. Scattered over the hills are small shrines where the priests will promise to remove all obstacles in your life and solve all your problems for a fee!

But there is much in the Kolli hills that is sacred and beautiful. The people who live here are tribals and are called as Malayalees – people of the mountains. They are a hard-working self- sufficient community with a unique culture that is their own. Aadi Padhinettu in July is the most important festival in the Kolli hills when people from the 16 naadus and from other places come together for week long celebrations.

A Holiday in Kolli Hills

Kolli hills is the place to go for a quiet peaceful holiday sans crowds of tourists.

On visiting the hills you realize that you have just stepped into an amazing world and first visits are always memorable. This is hill country like no other. Thick forests are interspersed with pastoral landscapes, and cosy mountain villages. The altitude and the rivers Aiyaru and Varattaru flowing across the hills, massive jackfruit trees everywhere you go, terraced fields, yes, Kolli hills is beautiful.

How to reach

Kolli hills is accessible from Salem (64 kms) and from Namakkal(24 kms) both major cities on National Highway 44(NH44). Buses ply from Salem, Namakkal and Rasipuram to important villages in the Kolli hills. It is a better idea to rent a car because many of the places to visit in the hills are not on the regular bus routes.

Hill road - Kolli malai

The drive to the hills is lovely, the roads are good. If you are travelling from Salem it is a  11/2 hour drive through a very scenic route.

Route from Salem

Take the NH 44 from Salem. Near Rasipuram, turn left onto the Rasipuram bye-pass which will take you to State Highway SH 95. Turn right on to SH 95 and drive through beautiful farming villages along the Kolli range. Turn left once more at Kaalappa-naickenpatti to go to the kolli foothills village of Karavalli. The 28 kms Ghat Road begins at Karavalli. and the most amazing drive up the mountains with  stunning views and 70 sharp hair-pin bends, a real challenge for drivers and biking enthusiasts. Enjoy the paintings of the Sendhamangalam Highways department along the way depicting stories of famous kings of ancient Tamil Nadu.

A hair pin bend in Kolli hills
A hair-pin bend in the Kolli Hills

Kolli Hills

Solakadu is your first stop and also one of the highest points in the hills. Stop for a steaming cup of the locally grown Arapalli coffee. The tribal shandy is right by the roadside and is a must visit place for buying exotic fruits and spices and other mountain produce. Just opposite the shandy, within the premises of the Highways Bungalow is a viewpoint with breathtaking views.

At Solakadu you can choose the places you want to visit from the prominently placed signpost. There are a lot of places to visit in the Kolli hills.

A word of caution – Once you exit Solakadu, there are very few signposts along the way so ask the locals for directions when in doubt to avoid going around in circles! Many roads seem the same on the hills and can get quite confusing.

Where to stay

There are very few resorts in the Kolli hills. The oldest is the Nallathambi resort. You can book cottages of the Kolli malai Panchayat in advance. These are located in Semmedu. Another place to stay is the youth hostel near the Arapaleeswarar temple.Alternately, you can stay in Salem or Namakkal and visit the hills.

Bring packed meals and snacks when you come because there are very few good hotels or eateries. If you plan to stay longer than a day the best thing would be to ask the locals to prepare food for you.

Gently Down The Lake In Yercaud

Dappled sunlight by the lake
Dappled sunlight by the lake, Yercaud

6th April 2017

Which Tamil Nadu hill-station gets its name from the lake at the centre of town? Yercaud, of course! This little hill town was called Eri-Kadu because of the forests around the lake. Eri-lake and kadu-forest. We locals still say Yerkadu when we speak of this laid- back hill town near Salem.

Yercaud Lake (2)

  • The lake is the first sight that greets you once you have negotiated 20 hair-pin bends on the lovely drive on the oh-so-beautiful hill roads and enter the hill town.
  • Once you have arrived in Yercaud, the lakeside is a good place to spend time.
  • Go boating on the lake, relax on the lawns by the lakeside, enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful scenery, and try out the tasty street food in the many eateries near the boat-house.
  • TTDC run boat-house opens at  nine in the morning and closes at five- thirty in the evening. It is the most popular place for tourists coming to Yercaud and can be quite crowded in summer.
  • You have a choice of pedal-boats, motor- boats and row-boats.
Boat-house, Yercaud
Boat-house, Yercaud

Boat-house, Yercaud

Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud
Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud

Yercaud lake is the only natural lake where you can go boating among all the lakes found in hill-stations in Tamil Nadu.

Dappled sunlight by the lake in Yercaud
Morning sunlight brightens up a placid lake scene in Yercaud

Gently down the lake!

A word of caution- the lake is really deep, so just sit back in your boat and enjoy yourself (let life pass by, literally)!

The row- boats come with the mandatory boatman which is good from the safety perspective. Personally I prefer the row- boat even if there is some waiting for the allotted boat. There is something very therapeutic about the splash of oars striking water, trailing your hand in the cool lake , taking in the panoramic views as the boat moves down the lake and a chat with a friendly boatman!

Late in the evening, when the boat-house has closed and the crowds have left, take a walk on the road by the lake. It’s very peaceful and across the lake, big stars hang low in the black sky over the dark silhouette of a hill. See the stars reflected in the mirror-like water. Feel the cool pure mountain-air, breathe deeply and watch your cares fall away.

The healing beauty of nature is part of the magic that is Yercaud.

RED BERRIES, POINSETTIAS AND more…

20th December,2016

Making B(m)erry!

Nature’s palette this December in Yercaud is light and dark shades of green and vivid splashes of red and orange.

This is a busy time in the coffee plantations in Yercaud. The coffee plants are full of red berries. Plantation workers pick the ripe berries by hand leaving the green unripe ones on the plants.

Ruby red coffee berries
Ruby red coffee berries

afternoon-sun-on-coffee-berries-yercaud

The coffee berries are a beautiful shade of red and shine like rubies amidst the shiny dark green leaves of the coffee plant. Myself, I love coffee and can’t do without my morning cuppa and another in the evening. Filter coffee is always a treat, and Kumbakonam degree kaapi makes one drool. But it all starts here in the hills from the coffee berries that ripen in December. In Salem, we are proud of our very own Narasu’s coffee..who can forget the famous ad?!!

coffee-berries-ripen-on-bushes-in-yercaud

Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing
Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing

Plantation yards are a hive of activity, as the picked berries are weighed, the seeds separated from the berries in machines and then sun-dried. For many days, as the berries ripen slowly on the plants this process continues. From berry to brew is a lengthy process which starts with the picking.

Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud

a-coffee-plantationyercaud

coffee-seeds-are-sun-dried-in-a-platation-yard-yercaud
Coffee seed are sun-dried in heaps on a row

busy-scene-on-a-platation-yercaud

Christmas Cheer

Elsewhere in the hills, bright red Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) bring Christmas cheer.

poinsettia

Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall

The little ‘crown of thorns’ plants are not to be outdone. They are full of little red flowers making lovely thorny borders on roadsides and estates.

Crown of thorns flowers
Crown of thorns flowers

a-border-of-crown-of-thorns-by-the-roadsideyercaud

A Merry Christmas to all my readers!

Sri Rama Temple at Pagoda Point

Sri Rama temple,Pagoda point

Sri Rama Temple, Stone Cairns and a View-point

Up in the hills, temples are sturdy landmarks in the lush surroundings, quite often built in chosen locations.

Sri Rama temple at Pagoda Point in Thalai cholai village is just such a place.

Pagoda point, Yercaud
Sri Rama Temple, Pagoda Point 
Sri rama temple -Pagoda point
Sri Rama and Sita, Pagoda point

 

Hanuman at Sri rama temple -Pagoda point
Hanuman

At four in the afternoon, it is cold up here. The temple is open, the oil lamps are lit but there is no priest. The idols of Rama and Sita are beautiful. There is a small idol of Hanuman in front facing the sanctum. The outer structure is modern and very clean.

The woman in the shop next to the temple says the temple is quite old, no one knows how old. It is one of many Rama temples in the Shevaroy hills. Her kula-deivam on her father’s side is Sri Rama she says, waving a hand in the direction of the temple.

Stone Cairns

Pagoda point is a view-point in the hills, a short distance from Yercaud Lake. Named after the stone cairns that are found here which are built in the shape of a pyramid or a pagoda, it is sometimes mispronounced as pakoda point! It is these stone cairns and the view-point that are the main tourist attractions. These cairns are 5 to 7 feet high. The lady shop-keeper says they are used to light the ceremonial lamps during the festival in the month of Karthigai.“Karthigai Maasam vaanga. Romba nalla irrukum,” she invites in Tamil, meaning, ‘You should come here in the month of Karthigai(for the festival). It is very nice then’. Her husband is also the caretaker of the temple. “We come here around 12 noon,” she says, “There are crowds of tourists on week-ends and holidays. On other days we just sit here”, she smiles.

Pagoda point,Yercaud
One of the stone cairns near the temple

 

A stone cairn, Pagoda point, Yercaud
Stone cairn,Pagoda point
Pagoda point, Yercaud (3)
View from Pagoda point, Yercaud

The view-point overlooks the valley. Wispy clouds float across the valley at eye-level! Fog surrounds you and moves away minutes later! Down below you can see a tribal village and another temple. It is a lovely place for a visit.

View from Pagoda point, yercaud
Clear view of the valley,Pagoda point
Clouds descend over the valley
This photo showing mist descending on the valley,was taken about 30 minutes after the first photo

The pictures below show how the fog brought road-visibility to near zero on our way back from the temple.Signpost in the fog

schoolboy in the mist
Fog is thicker. You can see a school boy making his way home.

Thick fog obscures the signpost

Thick fog obscures the signpost

Location

Pagoda point is roughly 4 km from Yercaud Lake in Thalai cholai village.

 

Nature

This post is in response to 3 day quote challenge.

I thank Mandeep at https://singhcircle.com for nominating me for the challenge.

On My Day Two my favourite quotes are on NATURE.

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

George Washington Carver

 

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”
Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
-Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

 

Three-day quote challenge

Day 1

Hello All

I would like to thank Mandeep at https://singhcircle.com for nominating me for the 3 day quote challenge. On My Day One my favourite quotes are on  TRAVEL.

1.I really do believe that travel is my religion because I think travel makes us bigger, broader, more open-minded and open-hearted people.It makes us more keenly appreciative of every moment in our lives and of the vast mosaic of beliefs, creations, values, livelihoods, landscapes, and species that compose Earth.

In this sense I think Travel is the planet’s best hope for paving a pathway to shared understanding, respect,and peace.

-Don George, Editor at Large, National Geographic Traveler magazine.

2.Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

-Mark Twain

3.I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever…

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson in Ulysses

 

To continue the Challenge I nominate:

https://callofthevedas.wordpress.com

https://jaipurthrumylens.wordpress.com

https://thetalkingofthesoul.wordpress.com

 

The rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2.  Post up to 3 quotes for 3 consecutive days.
  3.  Nominate 3 blogs each day for 3 consecutive days.

Hope you’d enjoy the task. Happy posting.

 

SERVARAYA PERUMAL-GOD OF THE SHEVAROYS

6th May, 2016

SERVARAYAN TEMPLE, YERCAUD

The god of the Servarayan ranges and of the 67 odd villages in these hills, Servaraya Perumal is the guardian of the Shevaroys, and his temple is no grand monument filled with amazing sculptures. I would call it a temple of surprises and wonders, as old as these ancient hills themselves, probably dating back 2000 years or more.

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A view of the Servarayan temple, Manjakuttai, Yercaud

The steep mountain road to the highest point of the Shevaroys makes for a very enjoyable drive. The temple is on a flat hilltop.

screen shot

 

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Sunset over the Servarayan temple, Yercaud

A modern outer façade leads to the entrance of the cave. Here you have to stoop to enter and bend down for a few feet into the cave. The cave is wider inside and you can stand up straight. This is where you see the idols of Servaraya Perumal and KaveriAmman on a rocky platform

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TEMPLE OF SURPRISES

You wouldn’t expect a cave temple at this height– 5,326 feet above sea level (1,623 metres ASL)!

The goddess is Kaveri Amman. Yes, you’re right – the goddess of river Kaveri is worshipped at this highest point of the Shevaroy hills!

The idols of Servaraya Perumal and Kaveri amman are small -11/2  feet tall but adorable!

Servaraya Perumal holds the conch and discus in his hands while goddess Kaveri holds a lotus flower in her hand.

The roof above the deities is moist and drops of water fall at intervals on the idols. This flow of water dries up during the dry summer months.

In the dark recess behind the god and goddess the cave goes on. Visitors are not permitted to go beyond this point. A story is told by the local tribal people that the cave goes all the way to Thalakaveri in the state of Karnataka, which is the origin of the Kaveri river. No one knows for sure, but it is a tale that has been told for generations. Surely there must be a reason why there is a temple for goddess Kaveri at these heights but it is a reason that has been lost to us, lost in the mists of time.

There is a great tree at the entrance, its vast trunk covered with small bags of prayer offerings.

DSC01820
Faith and Promise

 

DSC01822
Steps leading from the temple to the hilltop above

There are just a few houses some distance away from the temple.

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A house on the hill top

Across the road, there is a wishing well where you throw pebbles and make a wish.

Breathe in the exhilarating, pure, cold mountain air. The vast flat hilltop above the temple is a great place to relax, to have a picnic with your family, or just enjoy the spectacular 360 degrees views and the play of clouds in a sky that is so close that you feel you can almost touch it!

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From this high vantage point you get a breathtaking view of the hills that stretch in rows upon overlapping rows into the distance. You can also see bauxite mines on the hills.

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The sky on fire? Sunset on the hills.

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The festival in May is an important one for the tribal people called as Malayaalees -the people of the hills, when they gather here in their hundreds.

LOCATION

 7 kms from Yercaud lake. You can go by car or take a taxi. Alternately you can hire an auto near the boathouse to take you to the temple.

TIMINGS

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