KODAIKANAL is a city in the hills of the Dindigul District in Tamil Nadu. Its name in the Tamil language means, “The Gift Of The Forest.” It is referred to as the “Princess Of Hill Stations.” The word KODAIKANAL is actually an amalgamation of 2 words : “KODAI” & “KANAL.” By pronouncing the 1st syllable with a long Tamil “O”, as in “koe-dei”, it means “summer”, while the final 2 syllables “kanal” in Tamil, can mean “to see”, rendering KODAIKANAL as a “place to see in summer”. KODAIKANAL is a forest fashioned like a “protecting umbrella”.
KODAIKANAL was established in 1845, as a refuge from the high temperatures and tropical diseases of the plains. Much of the local economy is based on the hospitality industry serving tourism.
The town sits on a plateau at 2,133 mts between the Parappar & Gundar Valleys. These hills form the eastward spur of the Western Ghats on the western side of South India. It has a very irregular basin as its heartland, the centre of which is now KODAIKANAL LAKE, a 5-km circumference man-made lake.
Meadows and grasslands cover the hillsides. Gigantic Eucalyptus trees and Shola forests flourish in the valleys. Mighty rocks and cascading streams lie above the valley. There are many high waterfalls and ubiquitous gardens and flower beds in bloom. Kodaikanal is known for its rich flora. Of the big trees —- cypress, acacia and eucalyptus are the dominant varieties. Pear trees are numerous and the fruits are of high quality. Competing with the fruit trees are the flowering ones —- rhododendrons and magnolia. Large dahlias, of different hues, are the main attraction of Bryant Park. Water bodies in the park’s pond are another pleasing sight. The town abounds with beautiful yellow wild flowers.
The economy of Kodaikanal depends mainly on tourism. The town’s infrastructure changes every year in preparation for the “peak tourist season”. Major roads are converted into “one-way lanes” to regulate the constant inflow of traffic and special police are brought in for the safety of the tourists and protection of local businesses. Hotels are fully booked during the high season and remain virtually empty in off-season.
Plums, pears, chilly peppers, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic and onions are cultivated by “terrace farmers” in the surrounding villages. Popular tourist souvenirs include home-made chocolates, handicrafts and eucalyptus oil.
Since Kodaikanal was founded by the American and European Missionaries, Christian Churches are abundant here. There are Hindu Temples too ——Durgai Amman Kovil, Kurinji Andavar Kovil and Mariamman Kovil. The Muslim Mosques are Ellis Villa and Munjikal. Besides, there is an active community of Tibetan Buddhist refugees.
There are many places of interest in Kodaikanal.
(1) KODAIKANAL LAKE : This is an artificial lake, roughly star-shaped lake (60 acres), built in 1863. Rowboats and pedalos can be hired at the Boat Club. Horses and bicycles can also be hired for short periods. The 5-km path that skirts the periphery of this lovely lake is a favourite walk for locals and tourists alike.
(2) PILLAR ROCKS : They are a set of 3 giant rock pillars which stand 122 mts high. The view-point can be crowded, but is not commercialized. There is an excellent garden adjacent to the view-point.
(3) GUNA CAVES : These caves were made popular by the Tamil movie GUNA. They were previously called DEVIL’S KITCHEN, and they are bat-infested chambers between the 3 gigantic “Pillar Rocks”. The deep narrow ravines, of the caves, are now closed to the public, due to the tragic deaths of 12 youths there. These dangerous caves are highly protected now, and tourists can see sections of the cave-system from afar. In the late 1970s, the inside of the caves was well-photographed.
(4) SILVER CASCADE : 8kms from Kodaikanal, at a wide bend in the long and winding Laws Ghat Road, at altitude 1,800mts is a 55-metre waterfall, formed from the outflow of Kodaikanal Lake. The water quality is reportedly poor and not good enough fro bathing. This impressive waterfall is a popular stop for first-time visitors. There are a few souvenir and fruit vendors and many monkeys here. There is also a smaller, but more serene, waterfall below the bridge which crosses the stream here.
(5) DOLPHIN’S NOSE : 8km from the bus-stand, is flat rock projecting over a breath-taking chasm 6,600ft deep. It is an undisturbed area with a very steep rocky trail, beginning soon after Pambar Bridge. Beautiful views of steep rocky escarpments, rising from the plains, can be seen. The old village of Vellagavi can be reached through a rugged bridle-path here A short paved walkway, leads from the road here, to Pambar Falls (which is also locally addressed as “Liril Falls”, after the famous Liril Soap Advertisement filming in 1985).
KODAIKANAL is truly a “HAVEN OF TRANQUILITY”.