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.

A PEEK INTO THE PAST

March 30, 2016

A Brief Glimpse of British Colonial Yercaud

A colonial outpost of the British in India, Yercaud was ‘discovered’ in 1820 by David Cockburn, (M D Cockburn) the Scottish Collector of Salem District between 1820 to 1829.He is remembered as the Father of Yercaud as he initiated the development of these hills. In 1820 he visited Yercaud and introduced the cultivation of Arabica coffee procured from Africa along with fruit trees like pears and apples.

Plantation life first started in Yercaud before it was taken up in the Nilgiris.

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A chronological series of remarkable events in Yercaud in the British era.

1820 – David Cockburn, the Scottish collector of Salem known as the Father of Yercaud introduced coffee, pears and apples.

1827 – First survey of the Shervaroyan hills was completed.

1836 – Mr.G.F. Fisher, a German purchased the Salem Zamin. He was the first and only Zamindar in Madras Presidency. The area of his zamin was 1, 25, 000 acres.

1866 – David Arbuthnot, collector of Salem granted land for coffee cultivation to a large number of Englishmen.

1872 – Ghat road (from Salem) work was started.

1903 – Ghat road (from Salem) work was completed.

1917 – Montfort school was established.

1918 – First motorcycle to reach the Shevaroys. It was owned by Fr. Capell.

1920 – Ghat road became motorable and the first (steam engine) bus service was operated by NS.

1925 – The first commercial transportation was the Sydney Dyer Lorry Service introduced in 1925. The fare was Rs. 6 per adult uphill, Rs. 5 downhill and Rs. 3 for children.

1926 – The first gramophone and 35 mm hand driven magneto projector to reach Yercaud.

1928 – The first wireless radio imported by Bro.Octavian on December 17th 1928

1928 – The first wind and aero pump was installed in Montfort school.Similar wind driven pumps also worked at the Ornamental Lake and Emerald Lake.

1930 – Electricity became available after the completion of the Stanley Reservoir at Mettur in 1929.The first electricity connection in Yercaud was subscribed by the Montfort school.

1930 – A cinema hall called the White and Green Palace started functioning behind Western Stores

1931 – The first motor car in Yercaud was owned by Mr. C.D.Rile and reportedly burnt down by angry locals at Grassy Banks Bungalow, Yercaud.

The second car was owned by Mr. Medra and the third by Mr. Sydney Dyer.

The photos show the periphery map of the Shevaroys and a map of Yercaud. They can be seen outside the Anna Park near the Big Lake.

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Bougainvilla  covered much of these tall trees and shone in the evening sun.I could’nt resist taking these pictures.Perhaps they would have looked different without the sun on them.Hope you like them.

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Towering Grandeur

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THE SUN SETS BEHIND YERCAUD LAKE

YERCAUD JOURNAL

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YERCAUD – THE HILL TOWN BY THE LAKE

March 24, 2016

Summer has come early to the southern states in the Indian Sub – continent and it is time to think of cooler climes.

Yercaud Journal is a record of my visits to Yercaud, one of the most beautiful hill stations in Tamil Nadu, India. Flip through its pages and be enthralled by the magic of the hills. Yercaud is called The Jewel of the South and it is one of my favourite and beloved places, one which I never tire of visiting.

 A beautiful little hill town in the hills of the Shevaroy ranges of the Eastern Ghats in South India, Yercaud is in the state of Tamil Nadu, at a height of 4970 feet above mean sea level, (1515 metres).

It can be easily reached from Salem by a hill road that has twenty hair-pin bends and is one of the most scenic roads in Tamil Nadu.

The distance from Salem is 27 kms, roughly an hour’s drive, IF you do not give in to temptation to stop along the way to admire the scenes, the clouds, the mist, the beauty that Mother Nature has chosen to bestow on the many hills you pass on the way up!

The Nearest Railway Station is Salem

The Nearest Airports are at Trichy and Coimbatore.

It is true that the hills are alive!

As the road takes you higher and higher up from the plains of Salem, as the warm air changes to a cool breeze, you will feel your spirits uplifted, you will find yourself leaving all your cares behind, at peace with the world and yet with the thrill that comes of knowing that in the following hours or days you are going to enjoy yourself. By the time you reach Yercaud, you are once more a child –

Welcome To Yercaud and Enjoy Yourself!

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THE HILL ROAD BEGINS HERE, AT 350 m ABOVE MSL
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SPRING COMES TO THE HILLS – BARE TREES AND NEWLY GREEN ONES ON EITHER SIDE OF THE HILL ROAD

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THICKETS OF BAMBOO LINE THE ROAD
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IMAGES OF SPRING – THE ROAD IS STREWN WITH FLOWERS
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A GLIMPSE THROUGH THE FOREST OF THE WINDING GHAT ROAD

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THE GREEN BOARD BY THE ROADSIDE TELLS VISITORS THAT THEY HAVE ARRIVED

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TOWERING TREES MAKE EVERYTHING LOOK SMALL

 

AYODHYAPATTINAM – And The Coronation Of Sri Rama

SRI KODHANDA RAMA SWAMY TEMPLE,

AYODHYAPATTINAM

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Any place that is steeped in history I find immensely attractive.The older it is the better! There is just such a place near Salem- a place visited by Sri Rama, which was once the Ashram of a famous Rishi, a place that is a  treasure-trove  of some of the most exquisite  granite sculptures – all this so close to home..surely nothing could be better!

This special place is Ayodhyapattinam near Salem. Pattinam means city in Tamil. So the name Ayodhyapattinam translates as The City of Ayodhya.

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Ayodhya is an ancient city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in North India.It was the capital of the kingdom of Kosala ruled by the famous  Ishvaku Kings of the Surya Dynasty of whom Lord Rama was the most celebrated king.It was here that Shri Rama was born as the eldest son of King Dasaratha.  Sage Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic Ramayana begins in Ayodhya with the birth of Rama and ends with His Coronation in this ancient city. The Brahmanda Purana and the Bhagavatha Purana extoll it as the most important among the six holy cities of the Hindus (Mokshapuri),a pilgrimage to which is capable of giving Moksha or Nirvana.

Why is a village in Tamil Nadu named after Ayodhya, the ancient capital of the Kosala Desam ?Because, here we see the Coronation scene of Shri Rama and Sita Devi attended by Sugreeva, Baratha, Lakshmana, Vibhishana and Hanuman, all within a single sanctum.

HISTORY

(STHALA PURANA)

The temple of Kothanda Rama Swamy was originally the Ashram of Sage Bharathwaja, a famous Rishi. After Ravana was vanquished in Sri Lanka and Sita was rescued, Shri Rama and Sita returned to Ayodhya in the Pushpaka Vimana, a celestial aircraft. They were accompanied by Lakshmana, Hanuman, Sugreeva, Vibhishana among others.En route, at the request of Rishi Bharathwaja, Sri Rama stayed at his Ashram for a day with his entourage. The exalted Rishi and Vibhishana expressed their desire to see the Coronation scene of Sri Rama. To their delight Rama obliged them by enacting the Coronation that was to take place in Ayodhya.

Sage Bharathwaja built a temple for Sri Rama at the place where Rama stayed. For thousands of years, it remained in the forests near Salem. After the 16th century the first human settlement was formed around the temple during the Nayak rule in Madurai.

Villagers are said to have approached the local chieftain Masi Nayak, who on instructions from King Tirumalai Nayak, built the temple.

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In this temple we find the rare form of Sri Rama and Sita seated on a throne.It is known as Pattabhisheka Kolam. Pattabhishekam is the sacred anointing, ritual bath and crowning of the King and is the Indian equivalent of a Coronation. Sri Rama’s right hand is in Chin Mudra and he sits with his left foot placed on his right thigh in kingly fashion. Sita is seated beside him. Sugreeva, Vibhishana, Baratha, and Hanuman watch with folded hands.

Sri Rama’s Pattabhishekam is important because,

  • It marked the end of the atrocities of the Demons or Rakshasas and of Ravana, the Demon king in particular.
  • It marked the triumph of Good over evil.
  • It heralded the beginning of a glorious era in history known as the Rama Rajyam which became the ultimate ideal in good governance.

Worshipping the Pattabhisheka Kolam of Sri Rama is thought to be the penultimate solution for all problems in life.

This form of Lord Rama is not seen in many places.That is the reason why this temple in Ayodhyapattinam is important.

TREATISE IN STONE – THE MAHA MANDAPAM

The temple’s Maha Mandapam has 28 ornate pillars with exquisite life- like sculptures.It is truly amazing that each pillar is sculpted out of a single slab of granite.

My Photos do not do justice to this wonderful gallery of temple pillar art.

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Warrior on horseback slaying a lion with a lance which in turn is trying to kill a man
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The other side of the same pillar. On this side the warrior is seen killing the lion with a sword
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Amazing details..the horse’s teeth are cleary seen
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A warrior on a mythical animal known as Yali

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Musical Pillars- these are joined to central supports. Ayodhyapattinam, Tamil Nadu
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Delicate and beautiful stone lattice work. Ayodhyapattinam, Tamil Nadu
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Rishi Bharatwaja
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Ramanujar

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TRIVIKRAMA
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HANUMAN

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The name Barathwaja is written in Tamil above these figures near the ceiling
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Krishna Leela  – Herbal dyes have been used for paintings on the ceiling
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Painting of Gajendre Moksha using Herbal paints
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A map of India placed near the entrance That shows the places visited by Sri Rama in his Yatra given by a team from Ayodya to confirm that Sri Rama visited here.

It is believed that worship at this temple in Ayodhyapattinam is equal to visiting Ayodhya in North India.

Where it is located

Ayodhyapattinam is 11 Kms. from Salem on the Salem – Harur road

Timings

6 A.M. to 12 P.M.

5 P.M. to 8 P.M.

SRI RAJAGANAPATHY TEMPLE – SALEM

             

Rajaganapathy, Salem
SRI RAJAGANAPATHY,SALEM

Ganapathy – the God of Auspicious Beginnings

The Rajaganapathy temple in Salem is located in a busy crowded area in the heart of the city, called first agraharam. This is an ancient part of Salem.The area is also called as Ther-mutti, because the temple chariots (thers) of the two major temples of Salem, the Sugavaneshwara temple and the Azhagirinatha swami temple are lodged here.The temple itself is old, with a single shrine and a small stone mantapam in front with stone pillars.

For the residents of Salem, all good and important events in life begin here.

Lord Rajaganapathy’s blessings are sought on all important occasions by devotees.Wedding invitations, wedding jewels, important documents, new bill books, keys of newly bought cars and bikes are kept at Vinayaga’s feet and prayers are offered. People know that henceforth all business including the business of life will proceed without hindrances and obstacles. Lord Rajaganapathy sees to that. Pujas for new vehicles are a common sight.Important journeys and pilgrimages start here after prayers and breaking the customary coconut outside the temple. On some evenings you can even see new-born babies brought here on their first outing.

The idol of lord Ganapathy is a large,life-size sculpture.This temple is a sub-temple of Sugavaneswarar temple in Salem.

There is a beautiful engraving of Lord Anjaneya on a stone pillar in the mantapam in front of the shrine.

 

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Hanuman, Rajaganapathy temple,Salem

TIMINGS

Rajaganapathy temple is kept open throughout the day, from 6 a.m to 10 p.m.