Travel Bucket List – India: Tamil Nadu Part 6

After visiting the temple towns, let’s check out some beach and coastal towns plus some other interesting places in the state. This is the last part in this series.

Mahabalipuram, also called Mamallapuram is famous for its shore temples built in 7th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the second capital of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. It is an ancient historic town and was a bustling seaport during Pallava kings in 7th Century AD. According to the legend, it has been named after the demon king Mahabali who was renowned for his generosity. Some maintain that it has been named Mamallapuram after the Pallava King Narasimha Varman I, a great wrestler with the title Mamallan.

It is known for its historical monuments, sculptures, scenic beauty, culture and tradition. Mahabalipuram art can be divided into four categories: open air bas-relief, structured temples, man-made caves and rathas or chariot temples. The famous Arjuna’s Penance and the Krishna Mandapa adorn massive rocks near the centre of the village. The beautiful Shore Temple towers over the waves, behind a protective breakwater. Sixteen man-made caves in different stages of completion are also seen, scattered through the area. The striking feature is that all the sculptures here are monolithic – giant structures carved from single rocks.

The temples of Mamallapuram, built largely during the reigns of Narasimha Varman and his successor Rajasimha Varman, showcase the movement from rock-cut architecture to structural buildings. The mandapas and the rathas shaped as temple chariots are made from the granite rock face, while the famed Shore Temple, erected half a century later, is built as a structured temple with huge blocks of rocks following wonderful architecture. Thirukadalmallai temple, Cholamadal Artist’s Village, Mahabalipuram Beach, Tiger Cave and Crocodile Bank serve as popular picnic spots for people here.

One of the prominent festivals celebrated here is the Mamallapuram Dance Festival, which is organized by the Department of Tourism every year during December – January. As part of the festival, various dance forms are showcased including Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi.

The best time to visit Mahabalipuram is from October to March while the peak season is from November to February. Usually it takes one full day to visit Mahabalipuram.

Located at the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, Kanyakumari is also called Cape Comorin. Kanyakumari has been a great centre for art and religion for centuries. It was also an area of great trade and commerce. It was ruled by Cholas, Pandyas and Nayaks. Later on, Kanyakumari came under the rule of the Venad dynasty and its capital was located at Padmanabhapuram. In spite of the troubles encountered in the southern border of Venad, Marthanda Varma expanded the kingdom northwards to Aluva and established the kingdom of Travancore. In 1745, the capital was shifted from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram. Kanyakumari was ruled by the kings of Travancore, under the authority of the British, till India’s independence in 1947, after that it became a part of the independent Indian Union.

The city gets its name from the Hindu goddess Kanyakumari who was also known as Kumari Amman. Swami Vivekananda is said to have been lived here for a while and meditated. It is situated at the confluence of Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. This place offers marvelous views of both the sunrise as well as the sunsets. It is the only place in India where one can enjoy the unique spectacle of a sunset and the moonrise simultaneously on full moon days.

One of the main attractions in Kanyakumari is the Kumari Amman or Bhagavaty Amman Temple. Considered as one of the Shakti Peethas, this 3000-year-old temple, dedicated to the Goddess Kumari Amman attracts large number of devotees every year. The temple is the first Durga temple created by Lord Parasurama and one of the 108 Shakthi Peethas. This temple is situated at the shore of the Laccadive Sea. The Kumari temple has been mentioned in Ramayana, Mahabharata and Purananooru.

The Thiruvalluvar Statue has a height of 95 feet and stands upon a 38-foot rock that represents the 38 chapters of “virtue” in the Thirukkural. The statue standing on the rock represents “wealth” and “pleasures”, signifying that wealth and love be earned and enjoyed on the foundation of solid virtue. The combined height of the statue and pedestal is 133 feet, denoting the 133 chapters in the Thirukkural. The statue, with its slight bend around the waist, is reminiscent of a dancing pose of the ancient Indian deities like Nataraja. Vivekananda Rock Memorial

The Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a popular tourist monument in Kanyakumari. The memorial stands on one of two rocks located about 500 metres east of the mainland of Vavathurai. It was built in 1970 in honour of Swami Vivekananda who is said to have attained enlightenment on the rock. According to local legends, it was on this rock that Goddess Kumari performed austerity. A meditation hall (Dhyana Mandapam) is also attached to the memorial for visitors to meditate. The design of the mandapa incorporates different styles of temple architecture from all over India. The rocks are surrounded by the Laccadive Sea. The memorial consists of two main structures, the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam.

The Gandhi Memorial Mandapam has been built on the spot where the urn containing the Mahatma’s ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion. Resembling central Indian Hindu temples in form, the memorial was designed in a way that on Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, the first rays of the sun fall on the exact place where his ashes were kept.

Near Kanyakumari’s southern shore stands a monument, called the Tsunami Memorial Park to the memory of those who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, an underwater megathrust earthquake that claimed around 280 000 lives in many countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Thailand, Maldives and Indonesia.

Padmanabhapuram Palace, Suchindram, Pechiparai Reservoir, Vattakottai Fort, St Xavier’s Church and Udayagiri Fort are some of the other places to see in Kanyakumari. Some of the popular beaches near Kanyakumari are Thengapattinam Beach, Sanguthurai Beach and Chothavilai Beach.

The Chaitra Poornima Festival, Navratri, and the Holy Annual Festival of the Catholic Church are some of the major festivals celebrated in Kanyakumari.

The best time to visit Kanyakumari is from October to March while the peak season is from November to February.

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
At a distance of 37 km from Ooty, the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary or Mudumalai National Park is located at the foothills of the Nilgiri hills in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the finest and most attractive wildlife sanctuaries in India. The protected area is home to several endangered and vulnerable species including Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, gaur and Indian leopard. There are at least 266 species of birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and long-billed vulture.

Mudumalai is the first sanctuary in South India set up in 1940 and was declared as a National Park in 1990. In April 2007, the Tamil Nadu state government declared Mudumalai to be a tiger reserve. Mudumalai is a part of Niligiri Biosphere Reserve which includes the Bandipur National Park, Rajiv Gandhi National Park (Nagarhole) in Karnataka, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.

By sharing its boundaries with the states of Karnataka and Kerala, the sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Theppakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. There is a high diversity of animal life in the park with about 50 species of fishes, 21 species of amphibians, 34 species of reptiles, 200 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. The park is ideal home to several endangered and vulnerable species including Elephant, Tiger, Gaur, Leopard, Deer, Wild dog etc. There are about 200 species of birds in the park, including White rumped vulture, long billed vulture, Red crest, Mynas, Parakeets, and Owls etc.

Theppakadu is the entry point to the Sanctuary which has an Information Centre. The forest department organizes Elephant Safari into the park and also Elephant Interaction Camp. Trekking is not permitted in Mudumalai. Also, no jeep safaris are available here and private vehicles are only allowed on the outer peripheral roads in the park. The Forest Department runs mini-bus safaris into the Park starting from Theppakadu. The safari bus stops at Moyar Watchtower which offers spectacular views of Moyar Gorge & Waterfalls. Mornings are the best time for safari to spot the wildlife. The safari takes visitors to jungle home campus, which is situated 10 km into the deep jungle.

The Forest Department has accommodation in Forest Rest Houses at Theppakadu, Kargudi, Abayaranyam and Masinagudi. The forest department has cottages in various locations within the forests available on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are various private resorts and guest houses that visitors can stay in.

The best time to visit the Mudumalai National Park is from December to June.

The one hour Vehicle Safari starts from 6-9 am and then again from 3-6 pm. The 40-minute Elephant Safari starts from 7:30 – 10:30 am and then again from 2:30 PM – 5:30 pm.

The entry fee to the sanctuary is Rs 135 with other fees for photography, videography and Rs. 1500 for jeeps to enter the sanctuary.

Hogenakkal Falls
Hogenakkal is a waterfall where the Kaveri river splits into multiple streams of waterfalls and where there is water throughout the year.

Also known at Marikottayam, Hoge actually means smoke and Kal means rock. Sometimes referred to as the “Niagara Falls of India,” it is known for bathing areas and hide boat rides, projecting itself as a major tourist attraction. Carbonatite rocks in this site are considered to be the oldest of its kind in South Asia and one of the oldest in the world.

The word Hogenakal is formed of two Kannada words hoge and kal. When the water falls on the rocks it appears as if hoge (smoke) is emanating from the top of the kal (rock) because of the force of the water, hence Hogenakkal (smoking rocks). It is also called as Marikottayam by the people of Tamil Nadu.

Other than the Hogenakkal Falls, Mettur Dam, Melagiri Hills and Pennagram Villages are other places in the vicinity which are worth visiting.

Kutralam Falls
Kutralam or Courtallam, is a small town bordering Kollam District, famous for its waterfalls on the Western Ghats. With captivating panoramic vistas, the township is popularly renowned as ‘Spa of South’. It has nine waterfalls in the region that add a charm to its exotic beauty. One will also find Kutrallam adorned with ancient temples reflecting the age-old legends attached to them. The town itself like many other cities of India narrates mythological folklores adding to its mystique.

One of the prime attractions of all the nine waterfalls, Main Falls also known as Peraruvi is situated in the town center. It falls from an altitude of 60m and serves as the biggest of all the falls in the area. In fact, the water stream besides being a major sightseeing spot, is also place of worship for locals. However, take care of the time you travel as between November and January, the stream dries up. But at the same time during the peak season, it displays a sight of sheer beauty. Two temples dedicated to Goddess Kuzhalvaimozhi Amman and Sri Thirukutralanthar (Lord Shiva) are also big attention seekers situated in the vicinity.

A sight of pure brilliance, Five Falls is one of the most sought after destination in Kutrallam, situated around 4 km from the main town. Visitors are absolutely awe inspired by the sight it presents with falls splitting into five parts before rushing down at the Aranvankadu Pass. These five falls are regarded as the five heads of the cobras by the locals. However, three falls out of five can be accessed by men whereas only two falls are open for women. There are two temples also lying in the vicinity of waterfalls namely Swami Ayyappa Temple and Vinayaka Temple attracting lot of devotees.

Shenbaga Falls is one of those places which apart from being a famous tourists spot is also a major place of worship for locals. Also known as Chembakadevi, this place can be reached easily from Main Falls via trekking trail. The distance between the two is almost 3 kms. This fall derives its name from village Shenbaga Devi situated in the proximity that houses a temple dedicated to Goddess Shenbaga Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Durga. Owing to its religious importance, the place is flocked by the devotees in large number. They pay the homage to goddess with Shenbaga flowers which can be bought on the way to the temple from various shops.

Situated 4 km from the Main Falls, Honey Falls or Thenaruvi are quite famous among the locals as well as tourists. The stream derived its name from the beehives that are formed here during the dry season on the face of the rock. The view of the falls is very enchanting formed in the shape of horseshoe. The falls comprises of three streams that falls down to form a small lake right amid a rainforest. Situated about a 2 hour trek from Main Falls, this falls do not have the provision of bathing.

Palaruvi Falls, cascading downstream from the height of 300 ft, is one of the prime attractions in Kutrallam. The name Palaruvi means ‘Stream of Milk’ in the regional language. Ironically it seems to be a glittering stream of milk as it flows down. The roaring sounds of the fall stand in stark contrast to the silence of the forests and mist-kissed mountains around it. Situated in the Thenmala ranges, Palaruvi falls are surrounded by lush green forests, the Kallada River and some minor waterfalls. The enchanting place is perfect for savouring nature’s beauty. The fall not only does have an alluring beauty but also is considered sacred by the locals. The milk-like water is worshipped by people who believe it to be a religious spot. Also, Palaruvi waterfalls are among those seasonal waterfalls which ace their mightiness during the shower season and almost dry up in the midst of hot summers. The heavy downpour of water creates a splashing pool beneath for the people to enjoy the freshness of its water.

This brings us to the end of a visit around Tamil Nadu. I hope you had as much fun reading these posts as I had writing them. There are many on this list which I mean to visit the next time I go visit my ancestral state.

1 thought on “Travel Bucket List – India: Tamil Nadu Part 6

  1. Pingback: 2022 Week 14 Update | Memories and Such

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