Kolli Hills (Tamil: கொல்லி மலை) is a small mountain range located in central Tamil Nadu inIndia. The mountains are about 1000 to 1300 m in height and cover an area of approximately 280 km². The Kolli Hills are part of the Eastern Ghats, which is a mountain range that runs mostly parallel to the east coast of South India. The mountains are relatively untouched by tourism and still retain their natural beauty. They were sometimes known as "Kolli Moloi", the "Mountains of Death", due to the many diseases there such as malaria.
Tucked away between the Pachamalai and Kalrayan hill ranges of theEastern Ghats in South India, Kolli Hills (or Kollimalai, in Tamil) is indeed a remarkable spot in Tamil Nadu. Unlike man-made Ooty and Kodai, Kolli Hills is traditional hill country, the land of friendly tribes, and a part of the erstwhile kingdom of Valvil Ori, a Tamil king who was renowned for his generosity and valour. Formed in the shape of an open square, these hills were also known as Chathuragiri, literally meaning square-shaped hills.
Located at an ever-so-pleasant altitude ranging from 1000 to 1300 metres above mean sea level, Kolli hills enjoys a salubrious climate throughout the year. This fertile pocket in Namakkal district is where exotic tropical fruits and medicinal plants grow in plenty. The land is still relatively untouched by time, with 16 quaint little tribal villages that once constituted the hill kingdom of Ori. Much of the charm of this hill country still remains. For if you cant stand the milling crowds of Ooty and Kodai, this surely is one place where you can head to for a quiet holiday.
There are many such legends and interesting myths associated with these hills, which make it all the more interesting and worth visiting. The drive up the 70-hairpin bend ghat road is truly an enjoyable experience. Contrary to ones expectations, the ghat road here is quite wide and well-laid, thanks to the tribal welfare funds allotted by the government. The road winds through 13 miles of beautiful scenery and thick forests, where you could pause just to take in the fresh mountain air, or just stop and stare at the monkeys, mongooses or squirrels that frolic on the hillsides. But hairpin bends are frequent and plenty, so it would be wise to be cautious while driving.
The drive up the hill will take you to Solakkadu, the main town here, which is also one of the highest points in the hills. But for the few shops, bus stand, a Highways Department Guest House, a higher secondary school and the weekly shandy, Solakkadu is just an overgrown village. The viewpoint inside the Highways Bungalow compound is worth visiting, as one can have a spectacular view of the surrounding hills and plains from here. The bi-weekly shandy (dawn market) on Wednesdays and Saturdays attracts fruit vendors and wholesale dealers from the plains. The shandy begins on the previous evening as tribals trickle in with their produce. Many walk all the way from their villages, and camp at Solakkadu for the night, for the actual business begins at 5.00 in the morning and is over by 10.00am. Plantains, Jackfruit, Pineapple, Orange, Pepper, Coffee and Honey are what Kolli Hills is famous for, though you may get a better deal from the vendors than the tribals themselves.
The resident Malayalis (literally meaning people of the hills) are a friendly, sturdy and hard-working people, who generally keep to themselves. They constitute about 95% of the total population of these sparsely populated hills. Researchers feel that these were not the people who lived here during King Oris time. The early natives were primarily hunters-gatherers, while the present tribes could have migrated from the plains, bringing farming and agriculture with them.
About 4 miles from Solakkadu, an undulating track leads to the Christian settlements at Valavandhinadu established here by Mr.J.W.Brand, a Christian missionary who lived on the hills between 1913 and 1929. His work was carried on by his wife for many more years, in spite of the poor response from the tribals. But these missionaries were solely responsible for spreading literacy in this area, by establishing many elementary schools.
The next biggest village in the vicinity is Semmedu, which boast of a primary health center, telephone exchange, a few shops, hotels and the Valvil Ori statue. Comfortable accommodation and restaurants are available near Semmedu, at the Nallathambi Resorts and P.A. Lodge. Semmedu also has a statue-memorial to the King Valvil Ori, and is the venue of the Valvil Ori Tourism Festival in August. The festival is primarily a cultural event, which had its origin in the traditional Adi festival when people from all the 16 villages in Oris kingdom came together and danced, sang and feasted in praise of their deities and king. They brought with them, the flowers and fruits unique to each region and got together as a community. In recent times, this festival is organized by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department to showcase the cultural heritage of this region. The schools and government organisations in the area take part in the cultural events, and the fruit show is a main attraction. A Summer Festival is also held here in May, which is primarily conducted as a source of recreation for the local community.
The best way to enjoy these hills is at a leisurely pace, as there is ample opportunity for trekking and generally relaxing. It would be ideal to stay at one of the good resorts at Semmedu and explore the hills. Summer would be the right time to visit. August is the season for fruits here, and the time for the Valvil Ori Festival. But it would be very windy in August, which could be discouraging for any outdoor activity.
One of the highest points in the hills is Selur Nadu, which is believed to be the place where King Pari, another generous Tamil King, gave away his chariot as support to the helpless jasmine creeper. An ancient culvert can also be seen here.
The long and winding road from Semmedu to Selur Nadu is dotted with beautiful scenery. Banana and coffee plantations with their red and green coffee berries glistening in the sun, tall silver oak trees with glossy pepper leaves wrapped around, guava and orange trees laden with fruit and a host of other tropical plants typical of this region, are a feast to the eye. There are many spectacular points on the way where you could pause to have a birds eye view of the hills and the quaint little tribal villages nestling in the bowl-like valleys. Some of these villages still do not have electricity. Faraway, in the uninhabited hills, are thickly wooded Sholas, similar to the ones found on the Western Ghats. These are the last resorts of the sloth bear, panther, porcupine, deer, fox, hare and a variety of wildlife that once roamed the entire hills.
Another village on the way is Vaasaloorpatti, where the Government Fruit Farm is located. It is a beautiful place where paddy (the traditional quick-yielding dwarf variety indigenous to this region) is cultivated in the valley and a variety of hybrid and native fruits such as jackfruit, oranges, coffee, pepper and spices are grown on the slopes here. At Vasaloorpatti, the Salesian Sisters of Mary run a free dispensary and maternity hospital for the tribal women. Hill Dale Matriculation School, the only residential private school in Kolli Hills is also located here.
Not to be missed on the way to Vasaloorpatti from Semmedu is the Tampcol Medicinal Farm at Vaalavandi Nadu, run by the Tamil Nadu government. The farm is surely worth visiting, as Kolli Hills is perhaps better known for its medicinal plants than anything else. A wide variety of medicinal plants and herbs used in Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani medicine are nurtured, cultivated, gathered and sent from here. Even the most common medicinal plants, acquire a special value when grown here, as the medicinal plants from Kolli Hills are generally considered to be more potent and effective. For example, the Chitharathai (galanga the lesser), an effective remedy for cold, grown here is sold at Rs.400 per kg. Athimaduram (Jamaica liquorice), Karpooravalli (Coleus aromaticus), Thoothuvalai (Trilobatum), Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum), Kizhanelli (Phyllanthus amarus) and a host of other herbs, besides a variety of spices are also cultivated here.
Since ancient times, Kolli Hills has always been famous for its medicinal plants. It is believed that the Sithars (ancient medicine men) lived, researched and meditated here in the caves inside the sacred groves. Many such sacred groves are believed to be found in the forests here (near the Agasagangai falls) even today, and the adventurous go on trekking expeditions, to the caves where the Sithars lived. Stories abound of people chancing upon the stone mortars used by the Sithars to prepare their medicines and concoctions. The moss covering the inner walls of the Sithar caves is believed to have unique healing properties. The sacred groves are guarded by the local temple deities, and the felling of trees is prohibited here. There is also a popular belief among the locals here that a person could lose his mind while entering certain areas of the dense forest where the Sithars lived. No one knows where exactly these areas are, but these pockets, known as Mathikettan Solai are believed to completely wipe out a persons memory, for a period of time. A common explanation to this phenomenon is that it could be due to the effect of the concentration of so many highly potent medicinal plants in one place.
Perhaps the biggest attraction in Kolli Hills from a tourists point of view is the spectacular Agasagangai waterfalls and the nearby Arapaleeswarar temple at Valapoor Nadu. This ancient Siva temple has inscriptions dating back to the Chola period. One has to climb down the 700 and odd steps leading to the waterfalls from here. The waterfall presents a truly spectacular sight, as the water cascades down 200 feet, covering all around with a fine spray. It would be just enough to stand nearby and get drenched. Only the truly daring try to bathe on the slippery rocks here. The climb up the steps can be pretty strenuous, and it is therefore wise to visit the falls only if one is capable of climbing back.
Kolli Hills is thus a naturalists haven - a treasure trove of medicinal plants, and the native home of traditional hill country and people. But like eco-systems elsewhere, these hills too have been invaded by modern farming practices and invasive methods. Tapioca, cassava and hybrid varieties of rice, which were introduced in this region recently, have overtaken the traditional paddy varieties, minor millets, pulses and fruit farms in terms of profitability. The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation has taken efforts to arrest this genetic erosion and rescue the traditional crop varieties. The local practice of burning the land after each yield has proven to be detrimental to the soil. The wiping out of traditional farmlands and orchards, has contributed to the near extinction of the mountain bees that produced the superior quality honey that Kolli Hills was once so famous for.
There has been an alarming rate of decline in the wildlife found here. Kolli Hills was once known for its Sloth Bear, which used to reside in the Sholas and visit the fruit farms occasionally, lured by the smell of ripe jackfruit. These bears were considered as pests by the local community, and were killed. Ever since King Oris time, hunting had always been a major preoccupation in this region. And even now, the malayali tribes place a premium on hunted meat, which forms a major part of their diet. This explains the almost complete disappearance of the wild boar, porcupine, deer and hare that were once found abundantly in this region.
As far as modern day communication is concerned, Kolli Hills is still rather remote. Though the hotels at Semmedu and the government offices have telephones, reliable communication is still non-existent here. You will have to book your copy of the days vernacular newspaper, while the English dailies are rarely sold here.
Out of the floating population that visits the hills, a majority are wholesale traders and planters who have plantations here. While most of the people on business make fleeting one-day visits, people from the surrounding plains do come here on extended holidays. And like elsewhere, the gradual rise in the influx of tourists and vehicular traffic has begun to show on the pristine environment. A visit to the stream near the Arapaleeswarar temple could be an eye-opener of sorts. The rocks near the stream are littered with all kinds of garbage, and it is difficult to find a clean rock to step on, leave alone the suffocating stench. Public consciousness and social awareness seem to be the need of the hour to preserve these valuable hills.
But in spite of all these modern ills, Kolli Hills is still one exclusive place where time has stood still. Where the pace of life is still in tune with nature, in its most pure and pristine form. A quiet little haven in the hills where you could retreat, rejuvenate and re-charge yourself.
General Information & Historical references:
The Kolli hills are featured in several works of classical Tamil literature such as Silappathigaram,Manimekalai, Purananuru and Ainkurnuru. The region was ruled by Valvil Ori around 200 A.D., who is praised as one of the seven great philanthropists of ancient Tamil Nadu. His valor and marksmanship are sung by several poets, and his exploits are a popular part of folklore. Ori is said to have killed a lion, bear, deer and a boar with a single arrow.
The hills are said to be guarded by Kollipavai, the local deity. According to legend, the sages chose Kolli hills when they were looking for a peaceful place to do their penance. However, the demons invaded the hills to disrupt the penance when the sages began their rituals. The sages prayed to Kollipavai, who according to the myth, chased away the demons with her enchanting smile. The Kollipavai is still worshipped by the people here and her smile is revered. The mountains have several mythological legends associated with them, and often come across as an eerie place in contemporary tales due to the unexplored and less traveled terrain. The hills are also known for many fatal diseases such asmalaria, which has led to them being called "Kolli Malli", the "Mountains of Death".
Kolli Hills is a major mountain range and is an outliner of the Eastern Ghats. It is eighteen miles (28 Kilometeres) long (north south) twelve miles(19 Kilometers) wide(east/west) and the Koll Block covers 441.4 square kilo meters. It falls within the following coordinates:- Rest Longitude 78º 17'05" to 78º 27'45" and North Latitude 11º 55' 05" to 11º 21'10". The name Kolli Malai refers to the mountain's once hostile nature; the unsuspecting and unaccamatised aliens, attracted by natural beauty. Viewed from plains of Namakkal the mountain appears as a flat-topped mass. The mountain has been inhabitated from prehistoric times. It is much celebrated in the Tamil Literature of the Sangam period; at least eleven poets mention it in their poems.
As per Census 2001, t he population of the Kolli Hills is 36852. There are 14 village panchayats and 275 hamlets. The population predominantly consists of scheduled tribes called Hindu Malayali whose spoken language is only Tamil. In two pockets SC population is found which is around 700.
Cultivation of Jack Fruit, Guvava, Hill Banana, Pineapple, Pepper, Coffee, Cardamom,topioca, honey and rice are the main agricultural activities.
The government reserve forests are seen in Ariyur, Puliyan Solai, Selur and Vazhavandhi Nadu. An area of 200 hectares is in the process of reforestation. Tigers and elephants which were once common in it are now extinct; only small animals such as black bears, hares, porcupines, and wild dogs are seen.
Legends have it that the hills were part of the famous Madhuvanam (Honey Forest) reserved by Sugriva of the epic Ramayana. The Maximum elevation ranges from 3500' to 4500' with the tallest peak Vettakaramalai, is rising to 4663' above sea level.
The hills formed a natural boundary between the Kongu Nadu and Chola Nadu. At the beginning of the Christian era the Mountain and its habitants were rules by Mazhavars and the King Vaivil Ori ws much celebrated among them. Legends have it that he was a great archer and released a arrow by him pierced first and elephant, then went through the open mouth of a tiger, then a deer and the a pig and then hit a monitor lizard killing instantaneously all. A statue was erected to honour the king in 1975 by Thiru Kalaingar M. Karunanidhi, Honorouble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the Government sponsored festival (VALVIL ORI VIZHA) every year named after him. Apart from known abode of the Saints, the Buddhists, the Jains set up a number of retreats, those fell prey to time. A stone image of Theerthangar reminds the existence of the earlier Jain influence. The famous Shiva Temple called Arappalleeswarar Temple dating back to 12th century situates at periakoviloor near the famous water falls Akasa Gangai. Reportedly an ancient and powerful deity called Kolli Paavai of Ettukkai Amman is also at Kolli Hills. It attracts large pilgrims on fiew moon days originally a Jain retreat.
The glory of Kolli Hills and the Charity of the King Valvil Ori is liberally sung by the Sangam literature like Agananooru, Purananooru, Kurunthogai, Pathitrupathu and Natrinai.
Numerous streams originate from Kolli Hills. The major rivers traversing the hills are Aiyar, Varattar etc.
At present Kolli Hills could be reached through a ghat road which was 70 hairpins bends. The village at the foot hill is Karavalli.. From Namakkal to Kolli Hills the distance is 55 KMs.. The ghat road alone 26 KMs. The district administration taking steps to form an another ghat road called Nariankadu-Mullukurichi road which, when formed will have only 2-3 hairpin bends.
For the convenience of the tourists the Panchayat Union has constructed six cottages at Semmedu. At near Arapaleeswarar Temple an Youth Hostel is also available which could accommodate up to 30 persons. This could also be used as a training center. An excellent lawn and a rose garden greets the visitors. The inmates can avail the tasty Kollihill food supplied from the canteen run by the Women Self Help Group. All these accommodations are available fro rent from the Commissioner, Kollimalai Panchayat Union, Semmedu (Phone No. 04286 247425). Apart from these at present two private lodges with boarding facilities are available.
Farming and vegetation
Apart from its historical significance, the mountains are covered with evergreen forests, but increasing areas of forests are cleared for farming. Important farm products of the mountain ranges include coffee, tea, jackfruit, pineapple, black pepper and other spices. Rice and other minor millets form the staple food of the tribal people who inhabit these mountains. The jackfruit grown on these mountains is well known for its taste and fragrance and is often soaked in wild honey that is also harvested from these mountains. The mountains are covered by lush green vegetation in the spring and monsoon, and are streaked with streams which add to the natural beauty.
There are three reserved forest were controlled by Government of Tamil Nadu, namely Ariyur Solai, Kundur Nadu, Pulianjolai (Jawahar raj, 2003, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The mountain is a site of pilgrimage, because of the Arapaleeswarar temple, which is believed to have a secret path to the Shiva temple in Rasipuram. The Shiva temple is said to have been built by Valvil Ori in the 1st or 2nd century when he ruled this area.
Two viewpoints - one at Seekuparai and another at Selur Nadu - are being developed to encourage tourism.
As of 2007, creation of a park and formation of an approach road to the Seekuparai viewpoint were nearing completion.
The government maintains a pineapple research farm where hybrid varieties are created. Research about medicinal plants is also pursued on these mountains. The government holds a tourism festival in August, and mountains can be reached by road easily from Trichy (80 km) or Namakkal (50 km) or Salem (100 km) or Rasipuram(35 km).
Botanical garden plan for Kolli Hills. Kolli Hills, which corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Valvil Ori, may soon have a botanical garden. The district administration has submitted a proposal to the Central Government seeking funds for this.
The garden, with a large variety of plant species, is sought to be developed atop the hills on the lines of the gardens at Udhagamandalam. The district administration has identified the required land.
Agaya Gangai waterfalls are located in Kolli Hills of the Eastern Ghats. Panchanathi, a jungle stream cascades down over 150 feet deep as theAgaya Gangai (En:Ganges of Sky), near the Arapaleeswarar temple atop the Kolli Hills in Namakkal district, Tamil Nadu.
Agaya Gangai is enchanting 300 feet waterfall of river Aiyaru, located near Arapaleeswarar temple. It is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by the mountains at all sides. En route, the natural beauty of the valley and the vegetation-covered peaks. The location is ideal for trekking and the breeze is pleasant, the cascade of silvery water touching and brushing the innumerable herbs which are abound in Kollihills keeps everyone spell bound and fresh with its herbal qualities.
Some thousand steps lead down to the falls from the Arapaleeswarar temple, in the Kolli Hills. Regular buses ply from Namakkal to the Kolli Hills. A drive through ghat road with some 70 hairpins bends from karavalli the village on the foothills will take you to Kolli Hills.
ACCOMMODATION (STD CODE: 04286)
Cottages (Panchayat Union) – 247425
Youth Hostel (Panchayat Union) – 247425
Hotel Nallathambi Resort - 247227, 247257, 247463
PA Lodge - 247488, 24746
Akasa Gangai Water Falls
Akasa Gangai is an enchanting 300 feet waterfall of river Aiyaru, located near Arappaleeshwarar temple. Thousands of steps lead down to the falls. It is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by the mountains at all sides. Enroute, the natural beauty of the valley and the vegetation-covered peaks . The location is ideal for trekking and the breeze is pleasant, the cascade of silvery water touching and brushing the innumerable herbs which are abound in Kollihills keeps everyone spell bound and fresh with its herbal qualities.
Flora & Fauna
The wilds of Kolli Hills are known for their medical herbs and plants. The vast expanse of forests of Kolli Hills boasts varieties of rare medical plants and these are regular sources for the preparation of indigenous Indian Medicines. Major tree species are Neem,Veepaloai,Usil, Velvel, Neermathi, Tamarind, Seetha Odai, Naval, Illupai., Silver Oak etc. Lemon grass is also prominent in most of the Reserve Forest areas. Wild animals like Rabbit, Wild boar, Bear, Hare, Peacock, Jackal, Jungle cat, Monkeys and variety of birds are seen in forest.
The important sight seeing places are Telescope House (at Solakadu), Government Herbal Farm, Botanical Garden, View Points at 34,35,36 and 37 hairpin bends. Picturesque vies point at Solakkadu, at Akasa Gangai, Selur Nadu view point, Boat lake at Vasalurpatti, view point at Seekkuparai. Arappaleeswarar temple, Kolli Paavai Temple, Jain temple and ofcourse a pleasent never ending landscape crisscrossing 441 Kilo meter Kolli Hills range.
Arappalli Iswarar Temple
A Shiva temple in the Valappur Nadu situated on the stream Aiyaru. Its is dedicated to Arppalli Iswarar. The deity's other names are Thiru Arappalli Ashavar, Thiru Arappalli Mahadhevan and Thiru Arappalli Udaiyar, The Deity's consort is Archalai. It is a 12th century temple. Valli Amman, also known as Sucmathamba, and Thayammai. Because of the belief that Arappalli Iswarar resides in the small fish of Aiyaru, the temple has also the name of Fish temple.
It is customary for the pilgrims to catch the sacred fish by hand, adorn them with gold or silver nose rings in fulfillment of vows. The Hindu legends of the temple’s origin claim that the lingam in the main shrine was unearthed during the ploughing of a field. The scar on its top is supposed to have been caused by the plough.
Kolli Hills can be reached by road from Chennai, Salem, Namakkal or Tiruchirapalli. National Highway 45 from Chennai is the road to take till Ulundurpettai, from where you will have to branch off on the road leading toSalem. A further southward diversion at the main town of Attur, will lead to Malliakarai, Namagiripettai and Belukkuruchi, at the foot of the Kolli Hills.
If approaching from Salem, you can take the Rasipuram-Namakkal road via Kalappanayakanpatti, and reach Nadukombai from where the ghat road begins.
The nearest railway station is Salem, 100kms from Kolli Hills. The nearest Airport is at Tiruchirapalli, 90kms from here.
Kolli Hills - Pictures