Kodaikanal : A Getaway to Nature’s Retreat in Southern India

Kodaikanal : A Getaway to Nature’s Retreat in Southern India

Welcome to Kodaikanal, a hidden gem nestled in the Western Ghats of southern India. If you’re seeking a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Kodaikanal is the perfect destination to rejuvenate your senses. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the breathtaking beauty, the lush landscapes, and the enchanting experiences that make Kodaikanal a sought-after retreat. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through nature’s paradise.

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

Kodaikanal: A Unique Hill Station with American Missionary InfluenceKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

In the 18th century, after the British started to establish their power in India under the pretext of trade, the white Latsahebs from Britain started settling here. Accustomed to the cold climate of Europe, the British did not like the heat of the plains of India. There was no other way to escape the intense and oppressive heat, so they set up residences and offices in the mountainous areas. They identified such stations as hill stations. Examples are Dalhousie, Pachmarhi, Ooty, Mussoorie, etc. Located at an altitude of 2,194 meters (7,200 feet) in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu, the history of Kodaikanal is different from that of other hill stations in India. In British India, the British developed many of the hill stations, but American Christian missionaries also made a significant contribution to the development of Kodaikanal in addition to the British. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, missionaries went to different countries of the world to spread Christianity. A group of such preachers worked in Madurai and surrounding areas in South India. Here they found the summer heat excruciating.

The Birth of Kodaikanal: Lieutenant Ward’s Serendipitous DiscoveryKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

In 1821, Lieutenant B. S. Ward, a British surveyor, came to aid the American missionaries. While surveying the Palani Hills, 125 kilometers north-west of Madurai in the hills of the Western Ghats, Lt. Ward, impressed by the pleasant atmosphere there, pointed out a beautiful spot to the American missionaries of Madurai.

From here, the range of hills, long-wide valleys, plains, flocks of clouds moving in and out, cool breezes, green sheets, springs, and silent peace on the mountain slopes delighted the American pastors at first sight. It was a gift of nature that they got against excruciating heat, so they named the place ‘Kodaikanal’. In Tamil, it means ‘gift of the forest’. The word Kodaikanal also means ‘forests on the mountain slopes’ and ‘edge of the forest’.

 

Kodaikanal’s Transformation: From Arduous Ascents to Flourishing Hill StationKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

At 7,200 feet above sea level, there was no other option but to travel on foot to reach this place. As a result, it took several years to develop it as a hill station. In 1834, the British Deputy-Collector of Madurai J. C. Rotten and Madurai Presidency bureaucrat C. R. Kotan climbed the Palani hills to Kodaikanal and built a small bungalow there. After this first paved construction, the traffic of British and American missionaries increased in Kodaikanal. In 1845, the Americans built two bungalows named “Sunny Side” and “Shelton”, which became their main summer residences thereafter. Within five years, the construction of British military bases, temples, offices, bungalows, schools, etc. started here. By 1883, the once barren Kodaikanal began to throb with six and a half hundred inhabitants.Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

Today, around 40 people live in this hill station. Two centuries ago, visitors coming here had to travel by horse, bullock cart, or palanquin. In 1875, train travel became possible up to Kodai Road, 80 km from Kodaikanal, The construction of the road to Kodaikanal was completed in 1914, and two years later it was opened to the public as a hill station. Kodaikanal has now become one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Famous as the honeymoon destination of South India, this place does not disappoint any tourist who visits there. One can easily spend two to three days in Kodaikanal with its many attractions and peaceful atmosphere. Here are the main attractions there:

Kodaikanal Artificial Lake

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

Sir Henry Levinge, the then Collector of Madurai, constructed this artificial lake in 1863 in the middle of this hill on a large area of ​​about 60 acres. (The name of the lake is Kodoikanal or Kodai Lake.) The shape of the lake, with a total perimeter of four and a half kilometers, is not circular or elliptical but pentagonal (star). The lake is the first choice of tourists visiting Kodaikanal, where, apart from boating, they don’t miss an opportunity to take an early morning or late evening stroll around the lake. Often, dense fog covers the lake; it feels like walking among the clouds.

Bryant Park Botanical GardenKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

This garden is worth watching and is located near the Kodaikanal lake. There are more than 300 types of trees and various plants and herbs grown on an area of 20 acres. A special garden of roses is constructed here, which encapsulates roses of 740 types. Before Bryant Park was established in 1908 AD, there was also an Eucalyptus tree planted here in 1857 and a budding tree of Bodhi tree in Bihar which has religious significance for Buddhists. There is a special rush of tourists during the summer when the flower-plant exhibition is held here.

Pillar Rocks: Natural Pillars of StonesKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

The specialty of Kodaikanal is its topography. Along with hill slopes, at many places the mountain seems to end abruptly. Once such a formation is a pillar rock, Three gigantic boulders of rock at the end of the canyon have been eroded by rain and wind to form distinctive shapes. Nature has done the ‘construction’ of all the three stones standing side by side like pillars. However, the third stone seems to be part of the mountain itself, so at first glance, it appears as if two pillars are standing. As the height of the pillar is 125 meters (400 feet), its influence is not the same.

The Tamil Nadu Tourism Department has set up a view point here, where one can enjoy a beautiful view of the Pillar Rocks and the valley after entering for a nominal fee. Of course, sometimes clouds or fog from the valleys obscure the Pillar Rocks. One factor that is as ubiquitous as tourists in Kodaikanal is the fog, which often makes it impossible to see more than tens of meters down the road. Hence, tourists visiting Pillar Rocks cannot see the rock standing like a warrior without support and help from nature.

Entrance of the Abyss: Gunaa Caves

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

These caves near Pillar Rocks were discovered by B.S. Ward in 1821 AD. After that, for about one and a half hundred years, no one was particularly interested in these caves. The caves became popular after the Kamal Haasan starer Tamil film ‘Gunaa‘ was shot there in 1992, and the name Gunaa Caves was also coined. The way the roots of the nearby trees spread out from where the cave begins looks like carvings on the wall of a temple.

Pine Forest: Trees talking to heaven

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

A dense forest of pine trees has not grown naturally. Rather, in 1906, a British officer grew it. In Kodaikanal, pine trees were planted with the aim of providing wood for the newly constructed houses. Lands of trees extending from one hundred to one and a half hundred feet high, with roots sprouting from here and there, form designs of various shapes. Walking and horseback riding can also be done in this forest. As the natural beauty here is prominent, scenes of pine forests are seen in many South Indian movies and serials.

Coaker’s Walk: A Stroll Through HistoryKodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

A small trail passing between the mountains of Kodaikanal on one side and the valley on the other was prepared by Lt. Coakers in 1872. From here, one can see the splendor of nature spread far and wide. This trail, which is about a kilometer long, works to refresh the body and mind of the tourists. If the weather is clear, Dolphin’s Nose is also visible from here to the south. As the name suggests, the rock is shaped like a dolphin’s nose. (To reach here, instead of climbing a hill, one has to trek about 600 feet down to the bottom for about a kilometer.) This paved road can be walked in the morning and evening, and cycling is also an option available here.

Silver Cascade, Lily Falls and Thalaiyar Falls

There are more than half a dozen small and big waterfalls around Kodaikanal. Some waterfalls, like Vattacanal, Bear Shola Falls, Kukkal Falls, Kumbakarai Falls, Silver Cascade, Pambar Falls, Thalair Falls, Kumbakkarai Falls, Liril Falls, etc., are seasonal and can be seen only during monsoons. Silver Cascade falls from a height of 180 feet as its glistening water creates the illusion of a silver curtain fluttering, hence its apt name. The excess water that rises in the Kodai lake flows and reaches this waterfall, which is eight kilometers away on the Madurai road.Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

At a distance of four kilometers from this hill station, the river Pambar flows vigorously, crossing the rocks. The river gradually descends here as if the steps are built in the stone, thus creating a waterfall-like structure. The waterfall got its name because Liril’ Soap’s advertisement was shot here years ago. Flowing from a height of about 290 m (975 ft), Thalaiyar is the highest waterfall in Tamil Nadu, appearing as a white line with chalk in the middle of the high rock. It is the eighth-highest waterfall in India. The falls can be hiked during non-monsoon seasons.

Nilkurinji Andavar Murugan Temple

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

The flowers named Neelakurinji bloom on the slopes of the Palani Mountains every twelve years. The main feature of these purplish-brown flowers is that they bloom together and then fade together in different regions of South India. Their seeds are preserved in the soil. At the appointed time, all the plants sprouted again and bore the flowers of Neelakurinji. This sequence runs automatically every twelve years. These flowers last bloomed in this area in 2018. Now, after twelve years, it will bloom again in 2030. The temple of Murugan (Kartikeya) is located where Neelakurinji flourishes in Kodaikanal. This temple was founded by a European woman. She came to Kodaikanal from Sri Lanka, converted to Hinduism, and changed her name to Lilavati. She built this temple in 1936, which was later handed over to the trust. From the Murugan temple, one can see the picturesque views of Vaigai Dam and Palani Hills.

Other places of interest

Upper Lake View:

From this elevated spot, one can see a large area of ​​Kodaikanal town, the lake, the greenery spread far away. The star shape of Kodai Lack canbe seen from here while taking an overview.

Moir Point:

British officer Thomas Moir built Goschen Road in 1929. This point named after him is tens of kilometers away from Kodaikanal. A memorial and a small garden have also been built here. If the weather is clear, one can enjoy beautiful views of the valley from Moir Point.

Telescope House:

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

The best place to see the natural beauty around Kodaikanal! Kodaikanal’s highest point is at 2,343 meters (7,687 feet) above sea level on the way to Coaker’s Walk. Many people come to see the view of the valley from one of the cabins by buying a ticket. Especially on summer days, the sky becomes very colorful at sunset. A beautiful rangoli created by colors like blue, red, orange, light pink, and purple looks great here.

Solar Observatory:

Six kilometers from the town on the hills of Palani Hills, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics has been running a solar observatory since 1901. Here, the sun is studied through a telescope. The observatory and the museum on the premises can be visited with a ticket.

Mercury Pollution of Thermometers:

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Many years ago, a company called Chesebrough-Ponds was a wholesale manufacturer of medical thermometers in America. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Chesebrough-Ponds Company was forced to stop producing thermometers under government pressure when the American public protested against polluting industrial units. Contaminant mercury used in thermometers was responsible for the closure of the factory. A few years later, Chesebrough-Ponds shifted the factory to Kodaikanal Hills in Tamil Nadu and started mass production of thermometers there.

Chesebrough-Ponds was banned from America due to the deadly effects of mercury in the human body, but the then government of India granted a commercial license without investigating the cause of the complaints. In 1983, the company opened a factory in Kodaikanal and manufactured millions of medical thermometers, importing 5,000 kilograms of mercury per year. In 1997, Unilever bought Chesebrough-Ponds and acquired the Kodaikanal factory.

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A special feature of mercury in thermometers is that even when the temperature fluctuates greatly (from minus 38.87 Celsius to plus 356.58 Celsius), mercury maintains its liquid form. For the difference of each degree in temperature, it contracts and expands to a certain extent. These two properties make mercury ideal for use as a temperature standard in thermometers. In spite of this, the dark side of mercury is terrible. A person exposed to mercury can suffer from amnesia, paralysis of hands and feet, skin diseases, toothache and bleeding gums, knee pain, kidney failure, etc.

Liquid Mercury

Indian employees working in Kodaikanal’s thermometer factory became victims of slow poisoning every day. Many children are born with physical defects. In 300 years, mercury killed about 45 people. This much happened in Kodaikanal, yet the outside world remained in the dark for years. When some alert journalists first reported the matter in print, there was a strong backlash against the Unilever company. Finally, in the year 2001, the Tamil Nadu government closed the factory of that company. Even today, mercury is present in the water of the main lake of Kodaikanal after the closure of the factory. Environmentalists blame it on the irresponsible discharge of mercury-laden water by Unilever’s thermometer factory in the past.

A track that evokes the feeling of rain-forests

Kodaikanal is known for its rich wildlife. The forests here contain trees like Cyprus, acacia, pine, eucalyptus etc. Trekking is the best option to enjoy the beauty of the forests here. Very easy treks ranging from one to three kilometers can be chosen. With a knowledgeable local guide, it is fun to learn about the names of the trees and their characteristics.Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

During the trek, many wonders of nature can be observed. A pitch-fruit tree (which does not bear fruit but has the word pitch-fruit in the name) with a spring-like design is found. A forest called ‘Broccoli Flower’ also comes along the trek. Here, the trees are standing on the hill slopes in such a way that, from a distance, it looks like a field of broccoli.

The stinging tree (classical name: Dendrocnide Photinophylla) is found in many forests around the world. It is widely distributed in the rainforests of Australia. The experience of being gifted in the forest of Kodaikanal was memorable.

Kodaikanal’s self-sufficient chocolate and cheese

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When the name of chocolate is mentioned, Switzerland comes to mind, as the commercial production of chocolate started there only a few hundred years ago. Cocoa was first cultivated in India in 1965 in Kerala’s Wayanad. Cocoa became locally available; hence, the cottage industry of chocolate flourished in Kerala and gradually spread to other states of South India. Kodaikanal has mastered this cottage industry over the years. Chocolate is a huge cottage industry here, so it can truly be called a self-sufficient product. Here in the market, in addition to ready-made chocolates, materials for making chocolates are available in many shops, so a delicious chocolate can be prepared very easily with them.5b930c6d0e677aa1351f5f88a53a12a5

At least two dozen varieties of chocolate are available here. There are varieties like dark chocolate, biscuit chocolate, milk chocolate, date chocolate, butter scotch, fruit and nut, walnut delight, rum and raisins, cashew rich, roasted almond, and pistachio crunchy. Some shops also do an online chocolate business and deliver across India. Some factories allow tourists to see how chocolate is made. Apart from chocolate, Kodai Dairy’s cheese is also very famous. Varieties like cheddar, parmezan, feta, ricotta, mozzarella, triple layer, blue cheese, pepper, garlic, and chili or herb-flavored cheeses can also be bought here.

Kodaikanal’s Culinary Delights

Kodai’s Culinary Palette

Kodaikanal is not just a treat for your eyes; it’s a haven for food enthusiasts as well. Indulge in the delectable local cuisine, which includes a variety of South Indian delicacies, homemade chocolates, and aromatic spices. Make sure to visit Cloud Street for a delightful dining experience with a view.

Ideal Time to Visit

Kodaikanal's self-sufficient chocolate and cheese

The best time to explore Kodaikanal’s beauty is during the summer months, from March to June. The weather is pleasant, and the flora is in full bloom. However, if you prefer a more secluded experience, you can also plan a visit during the off-season, from September to January.

Where to Stay in Kodaikanal

Kodaikanal offers a range of accommodation options to suit your preferences and budget. Whether you’re looking for a cozy cottage, a luxurious resort, or a budget-friendly hotel, you’ll find plenty of choices to make your stay comfortable and memorable. There are many hotel-resort options in Kodai. Tamara Resort is a well-equipped and family-friendly place. A Tamil Nadu Tourism Office hotel is also located here. (Phone Nos. 9176995824 and 04542-241336) Jungle camping options are also open here.

How to Reach Kodaikana

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

The nearest airports are Madurai (120 km), Trichy (150 km), and Coimbatore (170 km). Kodai Road railway station is located at a distance of 80 km from Kodaikanal. Buses and taxis are available from each of these places. Apart from this, there are regular bus services to Kodaikanal from cities like Madurai, Chennai, and Pondicherry. Roads are good for self-driving. On the way from Palani to Kodaikanal, there are several viewing points to enjoy the beautiful view of the valley. The journey itself is a picturesque experience as you ascend the winding roads.

Plus Know:

Kodaikenal Getaway: Nature's Retreat in Southern India

Kodaikanal’s attractions are far from each other, so a full-day taxi is a great option. Double-seater bicycles are available for rent to explore the main areas of the town.

The distance from Kodaikanal to Mudrai is about 115 km. One can also visit the famous Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

* Kodaikanal is known for eucalyptus oil, sandalwood oil, sandalwood, pepper masala, and spices.

There is also a mobile application called Kodaikanal on the Google Play Store, which can be downloaded before going on a trip.

Conclusion

Kodaikanal, with its breathtaking landscapes, serene lakes, and enchanting experiences, offers a retreat that is second to none. It’s a destination where you can connect with nature, relax, and rejuvenate your soul. To experience the beauty of Kodaikanal is to fall in love with nature all over again. Make your travel plans today, and let Kodaikanal work its magic on you.


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