Treasures of Tirunelveli

Discovering south
Last Updated 21 December 2013, 14:18 IST

Tamil Nadu has often been categorised as the state of temples, some huge ones at that. Except for a couple of well known hill stations not much is heard about spots that are endowed with a natural beauty.

But hidden away in the dry jungles or across the few perennial rivers that meander over the dry plains are some inconspicuous pristine locales that would astonish you. Some discerning travel is surely required to fish out such spots. Since Tamil Nadu a state with a warm climate, the winters are the right time go.

The surroundings of Tirunelveli far down under are an exception to the general assumption that it an arid landscape, as I discovered on a recent sojourn. In fact, the destination was a temple of course, the little known but revered shrine of Sri Adi Varahaswamy at a bustling rural town of Tamil Nadu.

The place was Kallidaikurichi, hardly 70 kilometres short of Kanyakumari, but a long long road journey from Bangalore. The temple is simple enough, though the corridors and courtyards were ambiently spacious.

The visit and rituals were quicker than expected leaving me with ample time to explore the surroundings. At the suggestion of a local, I decided to visit the Manimuthar Dam and a waterfall by the same name.

Hidden beauty

Only 14 kilometres away, the village of Manimuthar was quite close. But on reaching the desolate village I found to my surprise that the dam was another three kilometres further away and there were no vehicles to hire. Even as I rued having come here without an arrangement, an employee of water board appeared like a godsend and offered to take me to the dam.

As I followed a path to the bund, a couple of urchins joined to show me around. The few steps brought me to the top and a huge water body lay before me. The Manimuthar Reservoir spread like a sea with a chain of blue hills in the distant west. A long bund went right from below my feet endlessly like a ribbon of green along the blue lake. The lee side of the dam was a bed of green lawns and a garden.

But located in such a remote place, I wondered how many did make it here. As I took a walk in the other direction, an embankment with a large sphere captured my attention. A shapely cluster of boulders rested on a side and the narrow steps led to a viewpoint at the top.

As we climbed up, the little ones enlightened me that this was called MGR Parai, named so after the late popular matinee idol, M G Ramachandran, as it was on this very rock that not less than six to seven song sequences of him were filmed. The view from the top was even more astounding.

Forest experience

The hills far away had a cover of dense forest. I later learnt that these are part of Western Ghats tapering down and the forest is part of the Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

The Manjolai Hills rising to about 1,500 metres was the origin of Manimuthar River, which would join Tamraparni River from Agasthyamalai further down. The other attraction of Manimuthar Falls lay five kilometres into the sanctuary. The forest officials at the check post were indeed helpful and sent their jeep to take me to the falls.

So thankful to them. The drive through scrub jungle on winding road was exciting and as we reached the falls, I was overwhelmed by the enchanting falls, pristine and unspoilt. The wide river tumbling over boulders branched out into lovely cascades in a timeless state. The indescribable beauty of the falls was just amzing.

As the evening drew closer, I was back with a sense of fulfilment having stumbled upon these charming locales.

(Published 21 December 2013, 14:18 IST)

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