Adobe Of The Gods
- ( Kerala )
Look Before You Leap: Moopanpara, The ‘Suicide Point’
Saj Vagamon Hideout Is An Eco-friendly Rustic Resort
Pine Valley Hiking Trail
Verdant Pastures Attract Flocks Of Sheep
As we left the rubber town of Kottayam, we could feel the perceptible change in scenery and weather. There was a nip in the air as our jeep negotiated the hairpin bends on the Peermade- Vagamon Road above mist-cloaked valleys and small tea gardens carpeting the mountain slopes.
We were bowled over by this pristine grassy patch of land, amazingly unexplored by the large influx of tourists in the region. Nature was at her bountiful best with the roadside pageant unravelling itself, frame by frame - exotic flora and fauna, green glades and grassy meadows interspersed with shola forests. It is no wonder the gods chose Kerala as their abode.
Located at 1100 metres above sea level on the western fringes of Idukki district and bordering Kottayam district, the Vagamon mountain range is a stretch of varying shades of green flanked by the Idukki reservoir on one side and fabulous rolling grasslands, hillocks, cliffs and scenic views of Kottayam on the southern side.
Cloaked in a blanket of green, Vagamon’s unique eco system and topography is complemented by its salubrious weather.
Visitors can enjoy scenic views of rolling hills with green meadows if they venture out on invigorating walks.
There are plentiful options for hardcore adventure buffs to discover little known hiking trails. There are birds to be stalked, butterfly trails to be discovered and endemic plants to be identified. Nothing can be more refreshing than walking in the rain
when the slopes are carpeted with monsoon foliage and dotted with waterfalls.
Trudging up and down the mounds of grass is a delightful pastime for tourists. We ambled around following the bleating of the goats and sheep in the nearby hills and meadows. One can reflect in blissful solitude or simply curl up with a book on the grassy knoll.
The pine valley in Kolahalamedu is just a few minutes drive from the motta kunnu (bald hill). We felt refreshed after a leisurely stroll under the shade of towering pine trees, inhaling the pine-scented air with the crackling of the needle-shaped leaves and pine cones under one’s feet.
One can embark on a para (rocky terrain and hillocks) hopping spree in Vagamon to discover a chain of three hills, each signifying a different religion.
Like all hill stations, Vagamon has a ‘suicide point’, Moopanpara, a V-shaped gorge. Standing on its precipitous edge, we could peer into the depths of the ravine and the valley below.
Thangal Para, a precariously perched huge rock with the dargah of Sheikh Fariduddin is famed for its annual Urs festival when thousands of devotees congregate. It is associated with an Afghan Sufi saint, who lived and died here about 800 years ago.
According to a local legend, a small stone he used to grind with has transformed into a spherical rock.
On the eastern side of Kurisumala is Murugan Para with a rock-cut temple dedicated to Lord Murugan. Located 10 km from Vagamon is Kurisumala (Mountain of the Cross), a Christian pilgrimage, with 14 crosses fixed along the path leading to the hilltop church overlook-ing magnificent scenic views.
Hordes of devotees trudge up the hill carrying wooden crosses during the Holy Week. One can see the recreation of Christ’s final journey in a series of pictures or tableaux.
We tarried awhile to fill our lungs with fresh mountain air and feasted our eyes on the inspiring view below - the cows of
Kurisumala Ashram grazing afar, the rolling plains of Pala and Thodupuzha, the hill slopes wreathed in mist and the lush tea
plantations. At the foot of the hill is St Thomas Mount, a centenary memorial.
The last stop in our sojourn was the hilltop Ashram of Kurisumala where we found a curious melange of Christianity with Indian
spiritual traditions and Gandhian thought. Sprawling over 40-acres, the 50-year old Ashram has a community prayer hall, vegetable garden, bread-baking unit, a barn and a milk-processing centre.
The granite building houses a church, community quarters with cells for monks and a library. The whole place exudes a meditative calm and silence. We were treated to a glass of hot Kurisumala milk, a popular brand among the locals and the Ashram’s main source of income.
We were impressed with the simple and austere lifestyle of the monks. They walk barefoot, cook vegetarian food and sit
on the floor for meals. In the evening, when the monks congregate in the chapel for prayers, a traditional oil lamp is lit in front
of the altar. As sacred chants mingled with quotations from the Hindu scriptures, we felt at peace within ourselves as we left the serene Ashram.
How to reach: By Air: Nearest airport is at Nedumassery in Kochi; 120km
By Rail: Nearest railhead is at Kottayam; 64km
By Road: From Thekkady, 60 km; Kottayam, 64km; Munnar, 150km,
Best season: August to May