Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kodaikanal - Gift of the Forest - Hill Station in South India -

Kodaikanal


The Tamil word Kodaikanal which means ‘Gift of the Forest’ aptly describes this quaint, little, hill station. No other name could describe this place better!

Nestling deep amidst thick forests, Kodaikanal is a unique hill station where you would love to spend a few days. You would love to walk through the wooded forests. Perhaps take a bath in one of the splashing waterfalls. Row in the lake. Try horse riding. Or simply admire the endless varieties of flaura and fauna.

Covering an area of 21.45 square kilometers, Kodaikanal is situated on the southern tip of upper Palani hills in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu at an altitude of about 2133 metres. Except during the monsoons, from October to December, when the monsoons really pour, the weather is fairly uniform throughout the year.


History

There is archaeological evidence of the existence of human beings in this area during the pre-Christ years.
Prehistoric megalith creations - dolmens which are large stone constructions - dating from well before written history, earthen pots and other artifacts which have been found here prove that the earliest residents of Kodaikanal were the Paliyans and Pulyans tribes.
Relics and artifacts of the Paliyans can be seen in the Shenbaganur Museum. A few descendents of the Paliyans tribe can also be seen near Kukkal Caves.

However, the earliest modern day settlers of Kodaikanal were the 14th century migrants from the foothills of Palani who escaped to Kodaikanal from the invasions of Tippu Sultan.

Lieutenant B. S. Ward, a British surveyor, was the first European to visit Kodaikanal in 1821. He was looking for a clean and healthy place around Madurai, which would provide relief to the missionaries and other foreigners, living and working in south Tamil Nadu, from the summer heat and the occasional epidemics.
There were no roads and visitors had to travel by horse, bullock-cart or palanquin. The forests were infested with thieves, robbers and wild animals. Yet, Kodaikanal had such a wonderful climate and pristine charm that it became popular amongst the immigrant population and the princely families.
In 1834, the Collector of Madurai climbed up from Devadanapatti and built a small bungalow at Kodaikanal. By the second half of the 19th century, churches and other colonial structures started popping up in and around Kodaikanal. Examples of some beautiful structures are the Union Church built in 1895; La Providence Church for Anglicans built in 1860; and a large number of private bungalows.
In 1863, Sir Vere Hendry Levinge (1819-1885), who was then the Collector of Madurai, created the 60 acres Kodai Lake by damming three streams flowing through. He stocked the lake with fish. He also brought the first boat from Tuticorin. After his retirement, he settled down in Kodaikanal.
A boat club was formed in Kodaikanal in 1890. A new boathouse was constructed in 1910. Since May 1929, the club has permitted tourists to join the club as temporary members and avail of boating facilities.
Missionaries established church properties. Many of the ruling princes built summer holiday-homes. Clubs, school and hotels came up. Civic amenities were introduced. Kodaikanal developed slowly, but steadily. Kodaikanal is the only hill station in India developed by the Americans. They also established the famous Kodaikanal International School.
The extension of the railway line from Chennai to Tirunelveli (598 kilometres) made Kodaikanal really popular. A station was built at Ammainayakkanur - 80 kilometres from Kodaikanal. (This was later renamed Kodai Road.) The first steam engine arrived in 1875 and made the journey to Kodaikanal far easier. Though construction of the road was completed in 1914, it was opened to the public only two years later - in 1916. And suddenly, Kodaikanal was thrown open to the general public.

Kodai Lake

The centre of all activities in Kodaikanal is the beautiful star shaped Kodai Lake. A 5 kilometres long road skirts the 60 acres lake.

Rowing boats, pedal boats and other kinds of boats belonging to T.T.D.C., Boat Club and Carlton hotel can be hired on an hourly basis.

Fishing is permitted. But prior permission has to be obtained from the Inspector of Fisheries.

Pony rides for a quarter, half and full round of the lake are available. Ponies can also be hired on hourly basis. Bicycles also are available on rent.

Bryant Park

The beautiful Bryant Park, stretching across 20.5 acres of undulating greenery is situated in the heart of the town. It was planned and given shape in 1908 by Mr. H.D. Bryant, a forest officer of Madurai.

The Park is situated on the eastern side of the lake, well within walking distance. It has a collection of over 300 species of plants. The Park contains a 150 years old Eucalyptus tree and a historic Bodhi tree. A portion of the Park contains 740 varieties of roses.

The glasshouse in the Park displays exotic indoor plants and some very good plant arrangements. There is a large lake with water lilies and other aquatic plants.

The Park also has the rare Kurinji plant which flowers once every 12 years. The Kurinji last bloomed in 1992. It will bloom again in 2006.

The Park authorities also sell ornamental plants at reasonable prices.

Coaker's Walk (1 kilometre)

In 1872, Lt. Coaker cut a 1 kilometre long path along the ridge of a steep slope around Mt. Nebo on the southeastern side of Kodaikanal. The narrow, winding path offers some of the best views of the plains. There is a telescope house on Coaker’s Walk from where you can see distant vistas.

On a clear, cloudless day, you can see the Dolphin's nose in the south, Pambar river valley in the southeast, Periyakulam and even the city of Madurai.

If you are lucky, you could witness the rare phenomenon called `Brachem Spectre'. When the sun is behind you and the cloud and mist in front, you could see your shadow on the clouds with a rainbow halo.

The Pillar Rocks (7 kilometres)

The three pillar-like rock boulders about 122 meters high stand next to each other. Somehow, they remind me of three giggling girls, huddled together.

It is amazing how one minute you clearly see the three pillars. Then within minutes, the mist and the clouds swirl up and cover the pillars. The pillar rocks become invisible!

Usually, early morning is the safest time to ensure visibility.

Pine Forests

The pine tree is not a native of India. It was introduced from Britain. This man-made pine forest, the floor covered with a soft, plush, natural carpet of pine needles, with pinecones lying all around, is an ideal place for picnic.

Silver Cascade Falls (8 kilometres)

The overflow of Kodai Lake has created one of the most popular spots of Kodaikanal - the 54 metres high Silver Cascade falls.
This fall is located on the Ghat road on the way from Madurai to Kodaikanal just 8 kilometres before Kodaikanal. You will see it as you enter and leave Kodaikanal.
This is also a favourite bathing spot for tourists. And this is the place you will find all kinds of photographers.

Green Valley View (5.5 kilometres)

Very near the Golf Club, the Green Valley View gives a panoramic view of the entire Vaigai Dam. The valley is very deep and dangerous. Some individuals have committed suicide here. For this reason, this place is also called "Suicide Point". A sturdy fencing has been constructed. And you can see plenty of rhesus monkeys.
The narrow path leading to the viewpoint is lined with shops. You can purchase eatables, handicrafts and toys.

Solar Physical Observatory (32 kilometres)

The country's only Solar Physical Laboratory, the Kodaikanal Observatory of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, was founded here in 1898 at the highest point in Kodaikanal at an altitude of 2343 metres in the beautiful Palani hills in Southern India. All the activities of the Madras Observatory were shifted to Kodaikanal.

Visitors can observe the stars and planetary movements during visiting hours and on prior appointments.

Kukkal Caves (40 kilometres)

The Kukkal Caves offer a beautiful campsite - ideal for trekking. You can also see traces of earliest known inhabitants of the region - the leaf clothed Paliyans.
Dolmen Circle (18 kilometres)
The Dolmen Circle is a place of great antiquity and great archaeological importance. Pre-historic remains, original burial urns and models of dolmens were unearthed in this region. These can be seen in Shenbaganur Museum.

Shenbaganur Museum (5.6 kilometres)

The Shenbaganur Museum founded in 1895 is maintained by the Sacred Heart College, a Theological Seminary. It contains a very good collection of archaeological remains and flora and fauna of the region.

A Spanish Father Ugarthe contributed his major collections to the Museum. This place also contains one of the biggest orchidariums in the country containing more than 300 species of orchids.

Other interesting spots

Among the other popular spots are Kurinji Andavar Temple - temple of Lord Murugan - the local ruling deity (3 kilometres); Dolphin’s nose - a flat projecting rock overlooking a deep yawning chasm (8 kilometres); Perumal Peak - 2440 metres high peak - a favourite of the trekkers (11 kilometres); Berijam Lake - a beautiful picnic spot (21 kilometres). There are a number of waterfalls.

Palani (62 kilometres)

One place I really love is the temple at Palani. This is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya or Kartick (brother of Ganesh). You can visit the temple while returning from Kodaikanal.

The temple is built atop a 140 metres high hill and can be reached either by using the steps or the recently opened electric ropeway.

During the festivals of Panguni Utthiram (March-April) and Adi Krithikai (July-August), Kavadi dancers flock to the temple in hundreds, often in a state of trance

Conclusion

Kodaikanal, often called the Princess of Hill Stations, is a wonderful get-away from busy city life.
It is the trekker’s dream comes true. You can go off on your own exploration; walk through eucalyptus and blue gum forests; or join organized longer treks through a travel agent. You can do some fishing (but obtain a permit first), boating, horse riding and cycling.
There are large plantations where plums, pears, plantains and other fruits grow in abundance. The wooded slopes contain a wide variety of flowers, trees and plants.
Kodaikanal literally blooms up during the summer festival celebrations in May. There are different kinds of activities. A colourful annual boat pageant is also held.

Kodaikanal is the best of the three hill stations of Tamil Nadu - the other two being Ooty and Yercaud. Some visitors even consider Kodaikanal the best hill station in the country!
Most visitors come here to see the natural beauty of Kodaikanal. Spend a few days here. You will certainly return with a refreshed heart, mind and lungs.

Fact File

Nearest Airport Madurai 120 Kilometres
Nearest Railway Station Kodai Road 80 Kilometres

Distances by road (from Kodaikanal)
Chennai 520 Kilometres
Ooty 264 Kilometres
Trichy 197 Kilometres
Coimbatore 175 Kilometres
Madurai 120 Kilometres

You can view and download a map of Kodaikanal from the following sites:
http://www.mapsofindia.com/maps/tamilnadu/kodaikanal.htm
http://www.kodai.com/map2.htm
Where to stay
There are a plenty of hotels and resorts to suit all tastes and pockets. The Carlton is a five star hotel and therefore a little expensive. I am listing only a few of the better ones.
The CarltonLake Road, Kodaikanal - 624 101. Phone: (04542) 240056 - 71
The Kodaikanal Club
7 Roads Junction,Kodaikanal - 624 101.
Phone: (04542) 241341
Kodai Resort Hotel
Coaker's Walk,
Kodaikanal - 624 101.
Phone: (04542) 240632, 240633

Hotel Kodai International
17/328, Lawsghat Road,
Kodaikanal - 624 101.
Phone: (04542) 240767

Hotel Tamil Nadu
TTDC Ltd.,Fern Hill Road,
Kodaikanal - 624 101.
Phone: (04542) 241336/7
Hotel Hilltop TowersOpp Kodai International School,
Kodaikanal.

2 comments:

Martin said...

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pawankalyan said...

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