Kolli Hills - General Information and Historical References
The Kolli hills are featured in several works of classical Tamil literature such as Silappathikaram, 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 as malaria, which has led to them being called "Kolli Malli", the "Mountains of Death".
Kolli Hills is a major mountain range and is an outline of the Eastern Ghats. It is eighteen miles (28 Kilometers) long (north south) twelve miles (19 Kilometers) wide (east/west) and the Kolli 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.
It is also believed that Chanakya, the author of Arthashastra was born in this area before he had migrated to the North India to pursue education at Takshashila.
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 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 ruled by Mazhavars and the King Vaivil Ori was 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 Theerthangarar reminds the existence of the earlier Jain influence. The famous Shiva Temple called Arapaleeswarar Temple dating back to 12th century situates at periakoviloor near the famous waterfalls Akasa Gangai. Reportedly an ancient and powerful deity called Kolli Paavai of Ettukkai Amman is also at Kolli Hills. It attracts large pilgrims on full 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 having 70 hairpins bends. The village at the foot hill is Karavalli. From Namakkal to Kolli Hills the distance is 55 KMs. The Ghat road is alone 26 KMs. The district administration taking steps to form 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 a 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 greet the visitors. The inmates can avail the tasty Kolli hills food supplied from the canteen run by the Women Self Help Group. All these accommodations are available for rent from the Commissioner, Kollimalai Panchayat Union, and Semmedu (Phone No. 04286 247425). Apart from these at present two private lodges with boarding facilities are available.