Kodaikanal – The Princess Of Hills
This misty hill station, 120km northwest of Madurai in the protected Palani Hills, is more relaxed and intimate than its big sister Ooty (Kodai is the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’, Ooty the Queen). It’s not all cold either; days feel more like deep spring than early winter.
Centred on a beautiful star-shaped lake, Kodai rambles up and down hillsides with patches of shola(virgin forest), unique to South India’s Western Ghats, and evergreen broadleaf trees like magnolia, mahogany, myrtle and rhododendron. Another plant speciality is the kurinji shrub, whose lilac-blue blossoms appear every 12 years (next due 2018).
History of Kodaikanal
It has had a most interesting and colorful history, beginning with the day Lieutenant Ward, a British surveyor, rode up on his horse from the plains.
Though there are reliable ancient sources of Greek and Roman times which refer the hills of South India and which document a tribal distribution similar to that of today, the earliest specific references to Kodaikanal and Palani Hills are to be found in the Tamil Sangam literature of the early Christian era. At this times a comparatively advanced civilization centered at the Pandiyan capitl, the City of Madurai. This literature consists mainly of eight anthologies. The Ettutokai, and a further group of Ten Idyllys, the Pathupaattu, which together contain more than 2000 poems of varying lengths. They abound with descriptions of the hills, forests, and hill – tribes.
The history of Kodaikanal is centered on the growth and development activity undertaken by the British in the region. Right from 1821 to 1953, the hills witnessed a dramatic turnabout of events, rising from being a small, unexplored rural community to a thriving tourist destination. Although the place was initially seen as a potential summer retreat for many British officials, Kodaikanal later became an important centre for treating tropical disease. The year 1853 is a landmark year as Kodaikanal witnessed social and religious reforms in the city. The American and British missionaries brought about further development in the region in the field of education and medicine. Although it started out as a part of their missionary program, the educational institutions in Kodaikanal became a part of an elite group of learning centre. By 1960, Kodaikanal was one of the most sought after destinations by many wealthy Indian families.
Kodaikanal is the only Hill Station in India developed by the Americans.
During 1821, Lieutenant B. S. Ward, a British surveyor was, the first European to visit Kodaikanal, who was on the lookout for a healthy place to live, for the foreign missionaries working in Madurai and the surrounding areas to escape from the summer heat and epidemics.
The early visitors to Kodaikanal, had to travel by horse, bullock cart or palanquin. The forest were infested by robbers and wild animals, and yet it became very popular with the elite families, because of the wonderful climate and clean air.
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, and a large number of private bungalows.
In 1863, Sir Vere Hendry Levinge, 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. A boat club was formed in Kodaikanal in 1890. Since May 1929, the club has permitted tourists to join the club as temporary members and avail of boating facilities.
The early tribes of Kodaikanal
Several thousand years later, two tribes migrated into the Palnis the Palaiyans and the Pulaiyans. Of the two, the palaiyans seem to have been the real jungle people. They were tree dwellers who lived in jungles of upper Palnis, using grass and leaves to make their clothing. Their homes were in caves, under rock or in plat forms built for safety in the tree. Kukkal caves, some 40 kms from Kodai, show traces of Palaiyan occupation. They ate roots, wild fruit and honey, and smoked out flying squirrels from trees. They made fire using steel and quartz and by lighting floss from silk cotton seeds. When one of the tribes died, the others left the body back as they moved to another place for some months. The palaiyans were also very inhabitants of Palni, and spoke Tamil and their customs showed resemblance to the customs of the people the plains except that the brides wore Tails of white beads. They worshipped their own deities of gods namely Mayandi, Karumariamman and so. Their style by dancing for hours for the sound of the drums.
Compared to the Palayians, the Pulaiyans were a tame lot. They were meat eaters. But they were probably the first architects and builders of the hill terraces, which characterize the lower slopes around kodai. Early missionaries reported that their social customs were simple and practical : divorce, for instance, was a quick little ceremony.
But happy times were over when, in the 14th century, there was another migration to the hills. This time it was the Kannuvar Vellalans, farmers from Coimbatore plateau. Energetic and industrious, they took over Pulaiyan lands and made them their slaves. The 17th and 18thcenturies saw further invasions during Vijayangar, Maratha and Muslim Rule. Heavy taxes imposed by alien rulers, cholera, famine and the persecution of the lower castes drove more and more people hill-wards, soon to form the first settlement of the Upper Palanis, Vellagavi. There are proofs available about settlement of Pre – Historic tribes at Kodaikanal by visible artifacts such as dolmen homes of great store slabs. After the primitive tibes of Paliyans and Pulayans in the 14th century villagers of Palani foothills fled into Kodai hills, to escape oppressive rule in plains and also from invasion of Tippusultan.
Places of visit in Kodaikanal
1. Kodai Lake
Kodai Lake that lays in the heart of Kodaikanal, is a star shaped man made lake that is draped on an area of 60 acres. Boating, horse riding, cycling and angling are a few of the adventure activities tourists can appease themselves with, near the lake.
2. Green Valley View (Suicide Point)
Green Valley View, or the otherwise known Suicide Point, is a magnificent spot in Kodaikanal, popular mainly for its enroute fun. One must walk through misty woodlands and panoramic walks to reach this heaven like spot.
3. Pillar Rocks
The famous Pillars Rocks of Kodaikanal are located around 8 km from the lake and are an exquisite picnic spot. Constituting of a beautiful mini garden, the place is so named as it has three vertically positioned boulders reaching up to a height of 400 feet.
4. Bear Shola Falls
Bear Shola Falls that lies in close proximity to Kodaikanal is an exemplary picnic spot. Earlier, many bears used to drink water from this fall, hence the name Bear Shola Falls.
5. Coakers Walk
Coakers walk is an one killometer long built on the mountain. It was constructed in 1872, by Lt Coaker. It is about 1/2 Km away from the Kodai and is constructed on the steep slope of mountains. The outlook of the path defines the beauty of the nature i.e mountains, valleys, cities etc. Telescope house is must watch of the coakers walk. People are allowed to ride bicycles.
6. Devil’s Kitchen
Devil’s Kitchen, which lays in between the Green Valley View and Pillar rocks, is a deep cleft that strikes to one as a small gutter. The Devils Kitchen is however, an extremely dangerous deep fall.
7. Berijam Lake
An important hill station in not just Tamil Nadu but the whole of India, Kodaikanal offers an assortment of picnic spots inclusive of the magnificent Berijam Lake.
8. Dolphin’s Nose
Dolphin’s Nose in Kodaikanal is a rustic and natural prodigy that features a flat rock protruding over a chasmal height of 6600 feet. Located almost 8 km from the main city center, this point offers breath taking views of the surrounding.
9. Bryant Park
One of the most popular botanical gardens in Kodaikanal, the Brayant Park is known for its fauna, rafts and hybrids. The best time to visit this marvelous park is during the annual horticulture show that is held during the month of May.
10. Silver Cascade Falls
Just 8 km from Kodaikanal town, is the scenic Silver Cascade Falls, known for its celestial and exquisite flow of silvery waters. It is a delight to see the pure crystalline water flowing down from a 180 ft tall cliff.
11. Kurinji Andavar Temple
12. Bear Shola Falls
Climate of Kodaikanal
Summer season in Kodaikanal
Summer in Kodaikanal starts from the month of March and continues till the month of May. The temperature varies between 20°C and 36°C during this season. Trekking and other adventurous activities can be enjoyed during this time.
Monsoon season in Kodaikanal
Winter season in Kodaikanal
Flora and Fauna of Kodaikanal
The population of Indian Gaur in the hills had increased manyfold as the number of predators is comparatively small. There was a good number of sambar, barking deer, mouse deer, wild dogs, giant squirrels and birds like Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiris hornbill and black and orange fly catchers in the area. Leopard population was high in the Adalur, Pandrimalai, Kannivadi and Pachalur forests than in the Kodaikanal Hills. ome portions of the forests in the Palani range might be merged with the Anamalai Wildlife Sanctuary owing to the massive movement of elephants.
With 325 species of trees, shrubs and cactuses, Kodaikanal is a rainbow of stunning flowers during the peak season. A large section is dedicated to nearly 740 varieties of roses. There is an 1857 Eucalyptus tree and a Bodhi tree which adds a religious significance . Ornamental plants are also present.
Images of flowers in Kodaikanal
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