Gone are the days when people used to take the word ‘holidays’ literally and enjoy at least a fortnight’s vacation leisurely. A family of hubby, wife and two children too could find it difficult, given that in these days with both of them working and children busy in their school itinerary, leave may not be possible for all at the same time and for so long. Work pressures, wanting to reach heights fast, cash crunch, not in the mood and a host of other reasons have made many a family give the long duration leave a miss.
But change being a must and the family wanting to relax a little, a slight respite from routine grind and a change of scene, is always felt as necessary for all concerned. No wonder people have now decided to take in a couple of places within five or six days or if time is less, just one place with several attractions and lazily take in the sights for the duration and return refreshed.
One such short duration place to visit in India is Kodaikanal, a state in the hills of Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. In Tamil, Kodaikanal means ‘The gift of the forest’. For long it has served as a good holiday retreat and tourist destination. Considered a “Princess of Hill Stations”, this 1845 hill was initially established as a haven, sheltering visitors from the intense heat and some say ‘the tropical diseases’ of the plains. This over time led to Kodaikanal becoming a regular place of visit for both short time and long time visitors and today it is favoured as a ‘must-see’ in any chalked out tour of South India.
What has Kodaikanal to offer, that tourists flock by the thousands to take at least a day or two to hurriedly squeeze in whatever places they can see in this small town of nearly 40000 inhabitants? Let us take them sight by sight.
The Places of Interest in Kodaikanal
1. Kodaikanal Lake – One of the most sought after spots by local and tourist alike, it is the natural beauty of the place with the roughly star-shaped 60 acres artificially created mass of water with its rowboats and pedalos that can be hired from the local boat club, a 5 km path all around it for walking, horse-riding and bicycling that entices all to make a beeline to this place. Said to be built in 1863, it continues to flourish as one of the most popular spots in Kodaikanal that is never given a miss. For couples, especially honeymooners, it is like a dream come true, just to move from one point to the other in a boat to themselves or with others like themselves.
2. Bryant Park – East of the lake and also close to the bus stand, is a well-maintained, 20 acre botanical garden. Built by H.D.Bryant, a forest officer from Madurai (Madurai is also famous for beautiful handlooms), this park that is named after him contains 325 species of trees , shrubs and cacti. In peak season, it is a plethora of colors that is visible all around, creating a lovely environment for the casual visitor and an opportunity for the learning and learned of the plant sciences to study the plants on offer.
A special section of roses has about 740 varieties that are a visual treat. You have an 1857 eucalyptus tree and a Bodhi tree that are considered religious by some. There are very many ornamental plants also that are cultivated and put up for sale. Naturally it is a brilliant opportunity for horticultural exhibits and flower shows that besides during the peak season are also held at various times of the year. The entrance fee is very nominal.
3. Coaker’s Walk – Constructed by Lt.Coaker in 1872, this 1 Km path, paved for pedestrians, runs all along the edge of the steep slopes on the southern side of the place. The route of the walk that winds around Mount Nebo, starts in front of Van Allen Hospital, runs parallel to the road by the same name, joins the main road besides St.Peter’s church. The view that it offers is breathtaking. Normally it offers a panoramic view of the plains, but when the day is clear one gets to see Dolphin’s Nose in the south, the Pambar river valley in the south east, Periyakulam town and even Madurai City.
‘Brocken Spectre’, a visual phenomena can be witnessed here when a person can see his own shadow on the clouds with a rainbow halo. This phenomena can be seen when a person stands with the mist and clouds in front of him and the sun is behind him. The walkway has a nominal fee, is open throughout the year and has an observatory with telescope mid way along the walk.
4. Bear Shola Falls – A tall waterfall in a Reserve Forest, it is 3 Km from the bus stand. Generally quiet place, this place can be approached by a gently climbing footpath.
5. Green Valley View – Once known as Suicide Point, this spot which is about five and a half Km from the bus stand and close by the golf course, offers a spectacular view of the plains and gives a spine chilling sight of the 1500 metres drop below. The Vaigai Dam to the south is clearly visible. Throughout the stairway leading to the Green Valley View are shops alongside that sell a lot of different wares.
6. Pine Forests - This is an area in the south west portion of Kodaikanal, that grows valuable pine timber, and which was planted by Mr.Bryant in the early part of the 20th century. One can easily visit it, to stroll about and marvel at the greenery.
7. Shembaganur Museum of Natural History – It is a collection of stuffed animals, birds and insects, i.e. a taxidermy collection. Open to the public six days a week, this museum also houses a living collection of 300 plus orchid species. It is affiliated to Loyola College, Chennai. Artifacts of the ancient Palaiyar tribes, whose descendants live in the hills, are kept here.
8. Kodaikanal Solar Observatory – At about 6 Km from the bus stand, this solar observatory is on Observatory Road. It is considered the highest point in Kodaikanal at 2343 metres. A former Director of the Observatory John Evershed is credited with the discovery of the phenomenon of radial sunspots, and so it is known as Evershed Effect.
The Kodaikanal Terrestrial Telescope provides a panoramic view of all sights below, including the Sothupparai dam, Vaigai Dam, Periyakulam town and the Varaha river. Belonging to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, besides it there is also an Astronomical Science Museum thrown open to the public once a week and on all days during peak season, an astronomical library, and a scheduled night-time telescopic sky viewing.
9. Pillar Rocks - A set of three giant rock pillars that stand 400 ft high is what is known as Pillar Rocks. Managed by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, this spot about 8 Km away from the bus stand, with its awesome sight has plenty of visitors. A well-kept garden adjacent to it is a lovely place to spend some time relaxing.
10. Guna Caves – These caves have got popular from a Tamil movie of that name. Previously the name for this attraction was Devil’s kitchen. They are deep caves that are bat infested and lie between the three gigantic pillars known as Pillar Rocks. A tragic incident that cost 12 youths their lives has made it closed to the public and there is security to see that nobody strays into the spot out of curiosity. Today only sections of the cave may be viewed from far. In the 70s, the inside portions had been well-photographed.
11. Silver Cascade – Not very big, yet an impressive sight for the first time visitors, this 55 metre ( 180 ft.) drop waterfall at an altitude of 1800 metres is definitely worth seeing once. Located 8 Km away from Kodaikanal, at a wide bend in the long and winding Laws Ghat Road, it definitely attracts the tourists visiting Kodaikanal. Not good enough for bathing, the Silver Cascade Waterfall results from the outflow of the Kodaikanal Lake. There is also a bridge across the stream of water flowing that creates a smaller and less gushing waterfall.
Dolphin’s Nose – Also seen close by is a flat projecting rock like an overhang over a breathtaking chasm that is more than 2000 m deep. Lying 1 Km away in an undisturbed area down a very steep rocky trail that begins soon after Pambar Bridge, Dolphin’s Nose is a welcome stop, especially with orange juice vendors available there. One also gets to see steep rocky escarpments rising from the plains. There is a short paved way that leads to the Pambar Falls. The famous ‘Liril’ Soap advertisement filmed in 1985 was shot here, hence the Pambar Falls are also known as Liril Falls.
12. Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple – This is a Murugan temple about 4 Km. away, where the deity is also known as Sri Kurinji Easwaran. A European lady from Ceylon converted to Hinduism in 1936, changed her name to Leelavathi, married Mr. P. Ramanathan and became Lady Ramanathan. This temple was built by her.
How does one get to Kodaikanal?
One gets to Kodaikanal by three modes of travel – road, rail and air.
To get there by air, the nearest airports are as follows:-
Madurai International Airport (115 kilometer or 80 miles)
Coimbatore International Airport (170 kilometres or 110 miles)
Tiruchirapalli International Airport (197 kilometres or 122 miles)
Tuticorin Airport (262 kilometres or 163 miles)
Getting there by train
The nearest railway stations are Palani Station, 64 kilometres away
Kodaikanal Road Station, 80 kilometres away
Dindigul Junction, 100 kilometres away
Madurai Junction, 114 kilometres away.
But all are in different directions from Kodaikanal.
Last mile coverage is only by bus or any other form of road transport
From Madurai frequent bus services are available. Buses are also available from Kodaikanal Road &Dindigul. A 2-3 hour drive via steep and winding ghats is a beautiful scenic experience either from Batlagundu or Palani, where the Palani Hills are part of the sights. Bicycle rental, taxis, vans and limited city buses are available. One does not get autorickshaws for this route.
Accommodation for the Short Stay
There are various levels of accommodation at Kodaikanal, since it is now a regular tourist destination that would suit different budgets. Alternatively in season rush when Kodaikanal would be heavily booked and no accommodation be available, one could always travel from Madurai daily, spend the day in taking in the sights at Kodaikanal and return in the evening. This would suit those flying in to Madurai and flying back.
Kodaikanal is a lovely, picturesque destination, one of a cream of attractive tourist spots in South India that has such beautiful sight-seeing locations to explore. Visitors from across the country and even overseas have never ceased to marvel at the sights and the lovely peaceful way of soothing one’s nerves.
If you have only heard and not had the opportunity to view the beauty of Kodaikanal, do try to create a short stay holiday of three to four days that would not only give you a wonderful experience but also a lifetime of memories that you would always treasure throughout your life. Who knows it might turn out to be a repeated indulgence whenever you feel mind-weary.