Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kodaikanal

There are three major Hill stations in south India. These are Ooty, Munnar and KodaiKanal.Though I have visited all of these three, but one more visit to Kodaikanal was in mind as last trip was almost 12 years back!

Kodaikanal can be easily reached through Madurai (about 120 KMs) or from Dindigal (about 100 KMs). Nearest railhead is Kodai Road about 80 KMs.

I was able to get return ticket by train from Madurai, but ticket to Madurai was still in waiting list. So decided to try onward journey by Bus this time.
Kodai Hills
This was first overnight journey by Bus along with Kids. Generally I avoid bus journey as its not as comfortable as trains.

With Kids there is added problem as sleep is restricted.

Anyway, we boarded Bus at around 10PM for our excursion to this famous and lovely place.

Morning about 830AM we were there.

Kodai Lake
Journey was a bit tiring, as because of unadequate sleep. A refreshing bath and hot cup of Tea settled the things.
Resort, I had booked in advance. There was not much rush in that time of end of January, even though it was a long weekend.
Our Resort
After getting a good breakfast, I quickly chalked out the plan. A taxi is needed to visit the attractions.
The hotel guys helped me and Dileep was there to help in his Tata Indica.
It is said that in 1845, American Missionaries built the first two bungalows “Sunnyside” and "Shelton”. Later, six American families came up the hill and stayed for the first time in Kodaikanal. Following this, the British also built houses here.
So the hill station Kodaikanal was established by Americans!
The word Kodaikanal is actually an amalgamation of two Tamil words: Kodai and Kanal. It has at least four possible interpretations:
1.) Place to to see in Summer
2.) The End of the Forest
3.) The Forest of creepers
4.) Gift of the Forest
The earliest residents of Kodaikanal were the Palaiyar tribal people.
I heard that we should consume only the bottled water as the Hindustan Lever's Thermameter Factory has discharged a lot of Mercury in the area. The factory is closed but the contamination is still said to be existing in some parts.
Kodaikanal is known for its rich flora. Trees like Cypress, Eucalyptus and Acacia are the main varieties. Rhododendron and Magnolia are the main flower plants.

Palani town view from Kurunji Andavar Temple

 We were there for three days so planned in this way, One day for Kodai Town, another day for nearby attractions and the third day for Berijam Lake.

Day 1 
First day we started for excursions surrounding the Kodaikanal town. First stop was the famous temple of Kurinji Andavar.
This temple is about 4 kilometres from town and is famous for its surrounding Kurinji flower which blossoms in the area only once every 12 years.
The deity Lord Murugan (Karthikeyan) here is called Sri Kurinji Easwaran. In Tamil, Kurinji means "hilly region" and the word Andavar refers to 'God'.
Kodai town view from Kurunji Andavar Temple
The atmosphere in temple was very serene and we offered our Salutations to Lord. As it was a saturday, we also offered Pooja to Navagraha there.The priest told us that this temple was built in 1936 by a European lady.
Kurunji Andavar temple
She changed her name to Leelavathi and married Mr.Ponnambalam Ramanathan. From both sides of Temple there is very beautiful and green views of the Valleys. One one side of temple we have the view of KodaiKanal Town and on the other hand is the view of Palani town.
Very near to the temple is Chettiar Park. We just glimpsed it from outside as I feared Kids will take more time there and  we may miss the time for other attractions.
It is a small park. A huge variety of fascinating flowers can be seen there.
Kodai Centenary at Coaker's walk
Our next stop was the famous Coaker's walk. It was constructed by Lt.Coaker in 1872.
It is about 1 KM walk along the ridge of a valley. The misty valley and the distant hills with clouds hugging them are very beautiful to see.
View from Coaker's walk
After paying some nominal entrance fee, we entered to this famous attraction of KodaiKanal. The valley below was full of mist and it allowed only a glimpse of villages and greenery below.
View from Coaker's walk
The scene was just amazing and beautiful. We took two rounds of this. Kids were a bit tired but it was just amazing to be there.
There is an observatory with a telescope halfway along the walk. It was closed perhaps we were there in off-season.
Kodai lake view from top view point
Further up the road towards Moir Point, we stopped to take the top view of KodaiKanal Lake. It was quite beautiful. At the view point spot, many people were there to get thos mesmerizing glimpse. 
Next we halted at Pine tree forest.
It is said that in 1906, with a view to growing timber, Mr. H D Bryant started the Kodaikanal pine plantations in Kodaikanal.
It is very beautiful. The leaves of pine trees make sure that there is no grass grows. I remembered my college days at Uttarakhand. It was also full of Pine trees....a bit of nostalgic feeling.
Pine tree forest
The scenery at pine forest is one of the most excellent locations to spend time to experience the most peaceful and memorable moments. It was good to to stand under the gigantic trees and feel the beautiful smell carried by cool breeze nurtured by mother nature.
Kids were quite excited here and were running from tree to tree. We spend some good time there taking snaps!
Next was Moir Point. It is an dazzling view point close to the entrance of the Berijam Lake road.  
Moir Point
Moir point is situated at a place where the first grass was cut by Sir Thomas Moir for creating the Goschen road (Fourty Mile Road) in 1929.

A pillar has been erected in the memory of the above event and the opening of the road at this point.Kids were a bit excited to find some place to run around.

Weather was a bit cool with gentle breeze.

Further up on the road are the famous points of Devil's Kitchen (Guna caves) and Pillar Rocks.There are a series of dangerous and hidden caves known as Devil's Kitchen.
Guna Caves
These caves are now more popularly known as Guna caves, as a Tamil movie Guna was shot here.

These caves are chambers that are between the two pillars. These pillars more famous as Pillar Rocks.

These are deep bat-infested chambers between the gigantic boulders. The deep narrow ravines of the caves are now closed to public due to the tragic deaths of some tourists and adventurers here. These dangerous caves are highly protected now, and tourists can see sections of the cave system from afar.

The weather was quite misty and cold now. The roots of the nearby trees are like a giant mesh. Excited tourists were posing for cameras.

I was in thoughts, how this place will look like if deprived of tourists? Haunted or Blissful for meditation?

Further up the road is Pillar Rocks. It is a set of three giant rock pillars which stand 122 metres high.
View for Pillar rocks....mist has engulfed them
The valley was completely under mist and we were not able to saw anything beyond a few feet. We waited there for some time but in vain. I had seen these in my last trip but luck did not favoured me this time.
Pillar rocks in better weather
There is an excellent public garden adjacent to the viewpoint.

Garden near Pillar Rocks
We were there for about 45 minutes or so. Just sitting, chatting and waiting for weather to become better. But Mists ruled the day and we took our way back to town.

While returning back to town, we saw one very old (perhaps Banyan) tree. The driver told us that its more than 500 years old. Even by seeing, one can guess that its quite aged. Because of fence, we cant go nearby so a few clicks preserved the memories.
500 Year old tree
There is also one place called the Green Valley View. It is more famous as Suicide Point because of deep drop there. We walked to the place. It is properly fenced. Mist was thick and it was hard to see anything down. It is said that in better weather one can see Vaigai Dam and the green valley below.

Nearby is the Golf Course. This was established on June 17, 1895 by British golfers. It is just next to the road.

As we reached to the town, cab driver Dileep advised us to visit Lake. But there was still some time so we decided to have a small walk in Bryant Park before going towards Lake.

We had not taken lunch and time for lunch was already passed. Some bananas helped us energised till the dinner!

Bryant Park is just about 500 meters from lake and is well maintained 20.5 acres botanical garden.

The park was planned and built in 1908 by a forest officer from Madurai, H.D.Bryant. A large section is dedicated to hundreds of varieties of roses.
There is an old (said to be since 1857) Eucalyptus tree and a Bodhi tree. We walked casually along the park and sat for some time there.

Kids were running in the green grass around the Ashoka Pillar. A glasshouse in the park contains wide varieties of flowers, ferns and other plants.

Large Dahlias of different hues are the main attraction of Bryant Park.

Now we are at the last attraction of the day, the Kodai Lake!

We walked slowly towards Kodaikanal Lake. It is surrounded by shops selling handicrafts and home made chocolates.

This is an artificial, 60 acres lake, built in 1863.

Rowboats and pedal boats were there to be hired but I did not preferred that. Instead I got two little cycles for my little ones and as they peddled along the periphery of the lake, we just walked briskly to be in pace with them.
Lily at Kodai Lake
Horses were also there for hire, but after bicycle ride I was not keen to run behind the horse carrying my Kids. My daughter was interested in riding one though my son was a bit fearful. He always looks to her sister for encouragement.

Evening walk along lake is quite pleasent experience. Water lilies in the park's pond are another pleasing sight. It was a bit dark now and we all were badly tired so took the taxi back to hotel, about 1 KMs away from Lake.

It was quite cold in evening. Luckily we were equipped with required warm cloths, perticularly for kids.

A good dinner in premises of about 100 years old Bunglow, bring the energy back in us. A good night sleep refreshed us for the next day.

Day 2
Day two started with a good breakfast in open Lawn. It was a bit cold even out in Sun as well. The clouds were playing with Lord Anshumaan. Cool breeze had let the temperature at quite low degrees.

Today we had planned a trip to Berijam Lake.

After breakfast, we took the taxi to the Berijam Lake about 25 KMs away from town. The route was till Moir Point that we had covered the previous day. From there after crossing the forest checkpost, one forest road goes towards Berijam Lake. This road further goes to Munnar but has been closed now for commuting purpose as it had posed dangers to delicate environment and wildlife in the area.


On way to Berijam lake
To visit the Berijam Lake, Forest department permission is required and limited number of vehicles are allowed to enter the forest area where the lake is situated. Entry is restricted into the Berijam Lake area to between 9 AM and 3 PM.

Usually the forest department starts gives permission letters at around 8 AM. The office is in town itself. My cab driver Dileep had got the permission on early morning that day. He told me that office opens at 8 AM, but queue is there even before that. It becomes a huge rush for permission seekers during high tourist seasons.

Evereyday permission to about 80 to 100 vehicles is granted.

After getting the papers verified at the forest checkpost near the Moir point, we proceeded towards the Berijam Lake.


View point on way to Berijam lake
Environment was quite cold. Mist was everywhere. Visibility was not more than 10 meters or so. Overall the atmosphere was very excitng in that forest and we all enjoiyed being there in this blissfull environment.

Except occasional passing by vehicleas we were alone with nature. At some view points etc, there were some people, otherwise it was very calm and serene... just like heaven.

Many view points we stopped in between, one of them was Silent Valley. I am not sure if this is the same Silent Valley which I had visited some time back. Perhaps same!


Silent Valley View...all mist...Just heaven
The Silent Valley view is an attractive place on the Berijam lake road and the breathtaking view of this valley was very soothing to the eyes. Even though mostly it was mist which had covered the area but even then we enjoied just roaming there and taking snaps.

By stopping at every some distance and feeling the mist, the forest and the surrounding blissfullness, we reached the Berijam Lake at about 1130 AM.

A small temple is the there, perhaps of Lord Murugan. From here, the straight road goes to Munnar, which has been closed now for general vehicular usage.


Lord Murugan Temple, Berijam Lake
Right side was the lake and one road goes towards the forest office, which stands on top of a small hill.

We slowly walked towards the forest office and further nearby areas of the lake shore, enjoing the serenity there. Gentle breeze, mist, occasional sound of birds, Lililies in the lake and Pine trees surrounding the lake, all had made the times just amazing!!


Pine trees, Mist and the Mysterious Lake
Boating is prohibited as the lake is a source of water for nearby villages. It is said that animals like Bison, deer, panthers and snakes are often spotted in this area.

I wanted to enquire about how to plan a night stay there at forest guest house there but could not get. Most likely its not possible.
Lily at Berijam Lake
It is said that one Psilocybin mushrooms which produce hallucinogenic effects when consumed, and other poisonous mushrooms grow around Berijam. Also there are a certain species of trees whose fragrance is believed to be having hallucinogenic effects.



One thing has to be noted that this is also a man made lake. So our forest department has done good job.

The panoramic view of this place made us spend almost two hours watching the scenic beauty. Kids were also happy and excited to be here, only thing is that we had to keep a constant eye on them.

It was past noon now, so we said good bye to this heavenly place and took the road back to Kodaikanal town.


Lyril Falls (water is there only during and after monsson)
As we were just about to enter the town, we saw a small falls. It was famous as Lyril Falls. It is said that advertisement for Lyril soap was shooted here in 1985. This is a small but beautiful fall. It is more striking during and after monsoon and when we visited, the water was very less.

In my last trip, I had seen people taking bath here, but this time, as water flow was very less and hence only a few clicks did the job.

We retuned back to our resort for a much required late lunch and some quick rest.

Late afternoon, I planned to walk to the Bear Shola Falls. I came to know that it was about 1.5 KMs from our resort. My wife was not that enthusiastic for the walk and cited the reaason that water may not be there, but still I persisted and with help of locals and sign boards for direction, we walked to this famous spot.


Bear Shola Falls (water is there only during and after monsson)
This is within town only but as we approached the falls, the last about 200 meters or so looks like we are in dense forest away from civilization.This last stretch is on a narrow pathway with dense vegetation on both side, so one need to be a little careful.

It is said that earlier there were den of bear here, but they all have gone now.

Water was not much there only a few thin line of it flowing down. Though the beauty of surrounding greenery was awesome.

We returned back and proceeded towards the Lake again. Idea was to spend the next few hours at Lake.

Again as the previous day, we took cycles for kids and ran behind them through the periphery of Lake as they tried to sped away.


Boat House @ Kodai Lake
We also tried a double bicycle today, with me and my daughter and also with me and my son. It was very good. Though the cyscles available for rent are not properly maintained and the chain and particularly handles are quite jammed.

As it became darker, we did some shopping of home made chocolates etc. and walked back to our resort.

On the way to resort there is a beautiful Bhadrakali Temple. We visited the temple and prayed to the almighty Mother.
Bhadrakali Temple
A good dinner and we took to bed. Bon-fire was planned in resort but we slept properly to prepare for next day.

Day 3
It was our last day of trip. As the train was from Madurai, we had to leave the place positively by around 1 PM.

I was thinking that if I would have planned the return journey also by Bus, then I would have got more hours at KodaiKanal. Buses for Bangalore start from there at around 7 PM.


Beautiful flower
After breakfast, we walked towards the lake and again did cycling today. Kids enjoied it around the lake. Procession of 26 January was in progress with different schools planned the march past.

Returning back, we took early lunch and got the dinner packed. Dileep was ready to drop us to Madurai railway station.

As we just reached outskirts of the town, there is a small Museum, which we decided to have a look.



It was founded in 1895 AD and houses many mummified species of animals, birds and insects etc. It also has artifacts of the ancient Palaiyar tribes people, whose descendants still live in these hills.

Further on way to Madurai, we came to Silver Cascade falls. It is said to be formed from the outflow of Kodaikanal Lake. The water quality is said to be poor quality and not good enough for bathing. Perhaps this is beacuse a lot of sewage and other garbage from hotels and homes are dumped in it on way.
Silver Cascade Falls (water is there only during and after monsson)
In general we Indians have very poor care for environbment around us!

Still it is a impressive waterfall and quite popular. There are a few souvenir and fruit vendors around and many monkeys too.

The water falls from about 180 feet. It looks more stunning during and after monsoon seasons. Little water was still there and after spending some moments, we took the road again.

My last visit was during monsoon seasons and at that time it was on peak of its majesty.

As we descend through ghat roads, we saw a place called Dum Dum Rocks. It is belief that Lord Murugan used to visit the Rock on his entourage to Palani. Local people have rituals corresponding to this belief and regularly offer prayers in this place (rock), and create drum-noise during the prayers, hence the name 'Dum Dum Rock'.


Thalaiyar Falls
Here we saw a distant water fall on the other side of hills.

This Fall is Thalaiyar Falls or Rat Tail Falls. It is at a distance and located on the opposite hill from the Ghat Road, and has no access road or path. So it is best viewed from the road only. The tower was closed and so we just clicked from there.

The view of fall or valley below was not very clear because of noon mist.

With 975 feet drop, it is third highest fall in India.

We reached Madurai by late afternoon and early morning next day we were at Bangalore.

After a good and memorable trip, we were back to home sweet home!

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