Kolli Hills Tourism
Kolli Hills or Kolli Malai in Tamil is a small mountain range in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu. Kolli Malai means the’ mountain of death’ and it is rumoured that there was a pretty maiden on the hill who lured men to death on the hill. This altitude of these mountains range from 1000 to 1300 metres above sea level. These hills are featured in many of the Tamil classicals. About eleven poets have described the beauty of the hills in their poems. There are two streams that originate from these hills; the Aiyar and the Vaattar.
The name Kolli Malai was derived from the Goddess Ettukai Amman also known as Kolli Paavai who is believed to keep the region devoid of all evil. It is believed that inhabitants, the Malayali(mountain people) tribes, have been living in this place from pre historic times but there are contradictions to this fact as historians believe that the earliest settlers were more ferocious and not like the mild mannered Malayali inhabitants.
These hills are part of the Eastern Ghats and there are 70 hair pin bends on the journey to the top. There are view points in between certain hair pins where the view of the plains is quite fascinating. Natural beauty abounds everywhere and the journey to the top of the mountain is quite exhilarating. The highest peak, Vettakaramalai is 4663 feet above sea level. The lush greenery all the way to the peak is very enriching and the air, very energizing.
The mountain is also abound with medicinal herbs that are said to give health, strength and vitality. These herbs and medicines are prepared by the inhabitants of the hills. The Siddhars have made this their abode and there are caves and groves where they researched and meditated. In ancient days, the groves had been said to be very sacred and one could lose their mind if they ever went in search of these groves. The lush green mountains are forest areas but some places have been used for cultivation. The honey sweet jackfruit in the area emanates a strong smell and the tang is in the air. There are a few animals like the wild boar, bear, peacock, hare, jackal, jungle cat, monkeys and different species of birds.
The headquarters in the hills is Semmedu and is connected to important towns nearby by roads. There are 16 tribal villages within the area which looks untouched by time.
Apart from the ancient Arappulishwarar Temple, there are retreats set up by Buddhists and Jains which have fallen victims to decay and damages. There is a stone image of a Theerthankara which shows evidence of a Jain settlement within the area.
Kolli Hills have been mentioned in the ancient classical like Silapathikaram, Manimekhalai, Ainkurnuru and Purananuru. The hills on the range divided Kongu Nadu and Chola Nad. The beginning of the Christian era saw the rule of the Mazhavars and Valvil Ori who was praised as one of the seven great philanthropists of Tamil Nadu. He is still revered today and he ruled the region in 200 AD. The exploits of Valvil Ori and his marksmanship had been praised by many poets and writers of those days. The legends quote that he killed a lion, a bear, a deer and a boar with one arrow.
The stories say that Kolli Hills was chosen as a good place for penance by some sages. They were a happy lot till demons (Asuras) came and invaded the place. The sages prayed to Goddess Kolli Paavai and pleased with the devotion, the Goddess chased away the demons with a smile. There are several myths that still pervade the inhabitants of the hills and they still revere the Goddess. Another story is that Chanakya, the author of Arthashastra was born here, and later migrated to the north for furthering his education in Takshashila.
Sugriva had reserved this forest and had called it Madhuvanam (Sweet Forest) as stated in the epic, Ramayana.
PLACES OF INTEREST
- Arappulishwarar Temple: It is believed that the temple has a secret path to the Siva Temple at Rasipuram. It is said that the temple was built by Valvil Ori in the 2nd century during the Sangam period. Legend has it that a farmer who was ploughing the fields had cut a lingam that was in the field and it started bleeding. There is a cut on the lingam even now which is visible. There are inscriptions in the temple dating back to the Chola period. Evidence points out to groves near the waterfalls which were the meditation centres of the Siddhars. It is customary of the pilgrims to catch the fish in the river and adorn it with golden ornaments on fulfillment of a vow.
- Ariyur Solai, Selur, Vazhvandi Nadu and Puliansolai: are Government reserve forests. In all these reserve forests black bear, hare, porcupines and wild dogs inhabit.
- Akasha Gangai: It is a famous waterfall near Arappalishwarar temple. The water cascades down a drop of 300 feet. There is innumerable number of steps down to the catchment at the bottom. The misty spray combined with the fragrance of medicinal plants permeates the air around the place which revives the visitors.
Kolli Hills is a place for a variety of adventures. There are places for nature lovers, the trekkers, hikers and people who simply want to meditate. There is an Ori festival sponsored by the Government annually in August. There is a one horse track connecting Semmedu to Chinna Pallamparai made by the British.
REACHING KOLLI HILLS
The headquarters of Kolli Hills is at Semmedu. There are road connections to Namakkal (55 kms.) and Salem and Rasipuram. The roads are all very good and a number of buses ply between these towns and Semmedu. The nearest railway station is in Salem which is 80 kms. away. The nearest airport is in Thiruchirapalli, about 150 kms. from Semmedu. Accommodation is available near the Arappuliswarar temple, though, it will have to be booked in advance during festival time.
The climate of Kolli Hills is quite pleasant throughout the year. To witness the festival in Kolli Hills, it is best to be there in August.