Western Ghats, India – Hill Stations


From the book  “The Western Ghats” by Mohan Pai (2005). All photographs are by the author.

…and they created little England

 
Majority of the hill stations in India were created by the British during their three centuries in India. Most of them were established during the nine-teenth century expansion of the British empire.
The Moguls, however, had created cool pleasure gardens in Kashmir two centuries before the British arrived in India Club House at Munnar

The British in India attempted to create fond reminders of home but despite their best efforts, they could not entirely succeed in making “a little England” in India – a quaint Indian-ness always pervaded.
During the early and mid-nineteenth century over 80 hill stations were established at altitudes between 1,230 and 2,460 metres.
 

Coonoor Town

The British had to face the tropical heat in the subcontinent and a great deal of physical discomfort in the months leading up to the monsoons. The Britishers considered from their earliest days in India that tropical heat was downright unhealthy. Most of the earliest stations were built as army cantonments to give European troops a breather from the pre-monsoon heat, military units being regularly rotated between the plains and the hills.
Remote cantonments lingered on in isolation as sterile military barracks while the more accessible ones were transformed by the life-giving force of civilians into gay social and educational centres. It was considered desirable to send women and children to cooler places in the mountains. Memsahibs spent four to five months every year in the hills, while some of their offspring were sent to the boarding schools that had sprung up in these resorts, until the time came for these children to return to Britain.
The resorts nearest to large administrative centres usually attracted local patronage, so Ooty was the summer capital for Madras, Mahabaleshwar became the summer capital of Bombay Presidency.
 
Others were more popular with particular clientele e.g. Kotagiri served as a station for planters and boxwallahs. Madanapalle, was mainly the goal for pensioned officials; Matheran, always acted as amagnet to wealthy Parsee Merchants sweltering in Bombay’s pre-monsoon humidity. Kodaikanal was not founded by the British but by the ailing American missionaries. Several hill stations have been planned and built since independence came in 1947. But they all served a similar purpose, though northerners rarely went south, and vice versa, and regular visitors to the hills tended to become devoted to a particular resort.
The Western stations, conveniently clustered in a loop south of Mumbai, are not much over two thousand feet, with the highest, Mahabaleshwar, reaching a modest height of 4,700 ASL. These stations perch on the Western Ghats and are free from snowfalls and rarely experience frost. At their southern extremity, the Ghats suddenly descend into rolling downs and then rise again to plateaux of surprising height; Ootcamund and Kodaikanal are higher than almost any other hill station save a few in the Himalayas and have a climate almost European in coolness and damp. Regardless of location, the highest resorts were usually the preserves of the leaders of the society, while the merchant classes, known as boxwallahs recuperated in the lower altitude stations and the common soldiery were confined to adjacent cantonments, on the occasions they were shuttled up from the plains.
The following are the hill stations located in the Western Ghats. Most of the hill stations were founded and developed by the British in the 19th century and some were developed by the princely state in the west and the south.
A number of hill stations have been developed after independence which include Saputara in Gujarat, Malsej Ghat and Igatpuri in Maharashtra, Kudremukh and B. R.Hills in Karnataka, Red Hills, Bellikkal and Palni in Tamilnadu; Wayanad, Silent Valley, Thekkady and Nelliampathy in Kerala.
 
The major hill stations in the Western Ghats :

Mahabaleshwar
Mahabaleshwar is the largest and most popular hill station in Western India. At 1,372 metres (4,501 ft) above sea level, it also has the most spectacular views.
The first mention of Mahaba-leshwar describes a visit there by the Yadav king Singhana in 1215. In commemoration he built a temple dedicated to the God Mahadev. Subsequently this hill region was undisturbed for centuries.

 View from Arthur’s Seat

The first white man to visit Mahabaleshwar was Sir Charles Matel, British Resident at Poona in 1791, though others believe that the first European to set foot in these hills was a Major Lodwick in 1824. Lodwick campaigned for the establishment of a hill station at this remote jungle site, the name of which he corrupted to Mahabillysir. The newly arrived Governor of Bombay, stayed at a bunglow built on Sindola hill. He was so impressed that he ordered a survey of the Mahabaleshwar hills and directed the medical board of Bombay to appoint an expert to investigate the climate and convalescent homes for British soldiers were established, though a treaty had to be signed with the Rajah of Satara for a territorial exchange giving him title to the village of Khandala.

Vena Lake

 
In a short time, Mahabaleshwar became quite popular and was quickly named as the summer capital of the Bombay Presidency. The new resort flourished, houses sprang up, sites were found for public buildings, and a jail was established for Malay and Chinese convicts.
The new community certainly benefitted from the prisoners presence in the form of rapidly and cheaply constructed roads, buildings and gardens. And the industrious prisoners cultivated potatoes, strawberries and English vegetables with great success.
During1830s Mahabaleshwar prospered and roads were built to open up a number of vantage points for the pleasure of the increasing number of visitors. The most popular viewing place was Bombay Point, where a large space was cleared for turning carriages and a band platform was erected, but Arthur’s Seat, Elphinstone and Sidney Points were also much visited. Before long a criss-cross of trails, totalling some 60 kms, cut across this corner of hills.

Panchgani
In1850, a retired officer of the East India Company, chose a site eleven miles away from Mahabaleshwar, on a spur of the Western Ghat, 200 ft lower than Mahabaleshwar, but on the lee side, thus escaping the heavy rains and mist of the outer ranges.
Here five villages were clustered together and called Panchgani. At fifty-six inches per annum, Panchgani rainfall is one fifth that of Mahabaleshwar, making it habitable throughout the year.
The cool salubrious climate was well-suited for a European colony. Panchgani was recognised as a hill sanatorium in 1863 by the governor of Bombay.

Matheran
Matheran was discovered by one Hugh Malet, the collector of Thana on an isolated hill top near the Western Ghats only thirty miles east of Bombay.
Matheran’s summit is crowned with thick forest and undergrowth. Even at the hottest time of the year, the spreading, leafy cover makes mid-day walking a pleasure, except when the monsoon breaks in mid-June, for the annual rainfall exceeds 200 inches.
The railway to Matheran was built by Sir Adamji Porbhoy, the father of Matheran railway. He travelled from Bombay to Neral on the railway line originally built in 1854, the first in India, and planned to continue by the more elementary transport then available on to Matheran. Unfortunately he was in the midst of an excessive rush, for all horses and rickshaws were booked forcing him to return to Bombay. He decided to build a railway of his own to Matheran. After thirteen lakhs of rupees and four years of effort the railway was completed and Sir Adamji could enjoy all the satisfaction of a fulfilled ambition.
The railway was a boon for all Matheran-bound travellers, for until 1907 the lengthy trip on horseback from Neral to Matheran was not exactly relished by Bombay businessmen, who were mostly Parsees, for this community was in the forefront from the time Matheran was first established as a summer resort.

Purandhar Hill
This is an old fort, possessed at one time by the grandfather of the legendary Shivaji, and later used as a refuge by the Peshwas of Poona when they were forced to flee their capital. At the conclusion of the second Maratha War, the British took over the fort in1818 and subsequently, Purandhar became the official sanatorium for European troops of Poona Division of Western Command.

Lonavala/Khandala

Lonavala stood on the Great Indian Peninsular railway line, and was easily accessible from Bombay and Poona. As many as eight schools had been established there as well as two religious missions, a co-operative store and three hotels. An ancient wood of fine trees, fifty six acres in extent, doubtlessly helped to attract the large number of visitors from Bombay.
Just next door, Khandala had an European hotel, four schools, convalescent home, dispensary and several bungalows built by Bombay businessmen.
Khandala offered many fine views of the Ghat range which ran north and south along lines of great natural beauty. A nearby waterfall divided into two cataracts during the rainy season, with the upper fall having sheer drop of three hundred feet.

Amboli
Amboli 30 kms up the Ghats from Sawantwadi, is a small settlement perched only 2,300 ft up on the edge of the Western Ghats. It commanded fine view and offered pleasant climate and good accommodation for the tired travellers who journeyed up via either Ramghat or Mahadeogarh. It was developed as a hill station by the British political agent, Colonel Westrop, after the opening of the Ghat road from the coastal town of Vengurla to Belgaum. Of Amboli in the 1880s it was said ‘the ghats… Swarm with beasts, but the jungle is so dense that it is almost impossible to drive them from their lairs’. Even today there is some forest around Amboli.

Hiranyakeshi Stream, Amboli

Amboli is on record as the wettest place in Maharashtra with an average of 750 cms (296 inches) of rainfall a year, falling between June and October. At this time, the hill station is wrapped in mist. In other seasons there are fine views of the Konkan coastal belt. Because of its size and distance from Mumbai, it is quiet and peaceful.

Kemmanagundi
Kemmanagundi, 55 km north from Chickmagalur is situated in the Bababudangiri range. It was developed by the princely state of Mysore. It is also called K. R. Hills after Wodeyar king Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV who made it his favourite summer camp. It is at an elevation of 1,434 metres and has beautifully laid out ornamental gardens and panoramic view of mountains and valleys.

Ishwara Shrine atop Mulainagiri near Chickmagalur

Madikeri
Madikeri is situated in the Pushpagiri range of the Western Ghats in Kodagu at an elevation of 1220 m.

Madikeri in monsoons

The Kodavas or Coorgis have been the majority population in Kodagu since at least the ninth century AD. The last Indian dynasty to rule Kodagu was that of the Lingayat kings. The British and the rajas never saw eye-to-eye. In 1834 six British troops marched into Madikeri and hoisted the British flag. Madikeri was never developed by the British as a hill station. It was mainly the centre and meeting place for the coffee planters from the surrounding coffee estates. Tombs of Kodava Lingayat Kings at Madikeri

When you enter Kodagu, it is like entering an enchanted land. Range upon range of forested hills stretch into the distance. There are rosewood and sandalwood trees, deep in the shade are thousands of hectares of coffee bushes, black pepper vines, the celebrated Coorg orange trees and near the beds of streams, cardamom plants.

Buddhist Monastery, Bylakuppe, Coorg

The valleys are brilliant green with paddy which produces aromatic rice that is the staple diet of the Kodavas. Over the last decade or so, a number of tourist resorts have come up, spread all over Kodagu and the number of visitors to Kodagu has considerably gone up.

River Kaveri at Nisargadhama, Coorg

 

Ootacamund

Little is known of the early history of the Nilgiris. The first recorded time the word ‘nila’ applied to the region can be traced to 1117 AD in the report of a general of Vishnuvardhan, King of Hoysalas, who in reference to his enemies, claimed to have “frightened the Todas, driven the Kangas underground, slaughtered the Poluvas, put to death the Malayalas, and terrified king Kala” and then proceeded to offer up the peak of Nila mountain (presumably Dodabetta) to Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth.
The first European to attempt the gruelling climb to the Nilgiris were Portugese clerics led by Father Jerome Ferreiri in 1602 seeking a lost group of Christians and who struggled up the mountains avoiding elephants, tigers and other wild beasts, and met the Todas at the top. The Toda’s showed no interest in conversion, so Father Ferreiri and his small band headed back to Calicut.

A view of Ooty from Doddabetta Peak

The East India Company annexed the Nilgiris from the territory of Tipu Sultan, whom the company’s troops defeated in 1799 at Srirangapatnam. 

Toda tribal temple. Nilgiris

It was not until 1812 that the members of a survey team climbed the mountains, though stopping short of where the Ooty is today.
In 1818, two customs officials on the track of a gang of tobacco smugglers, reported finding a large, secluded plateau guided by some Badagas, a tribe inhabiting the lower mountain slopes. On their return to Coimbatore, they reported their discovery to John Sullivan, Collector of Customs.
Sullivan visited the hills, accompanied by a surgeon and an ailing French naturalist and began construction of a bungalow at Dimhatti, the farthest point he had reached earlier. The Frenchman recovered in the cool climate and wrote an enthusiastic account of his findings, listing over a hundred species of plants new to him. Sullivan was determined to live there and in April 1822 began construction of a small bungalow, the first building in Ooty. Others followed him purchasing land from the Todas for one Rupee per acre. Sullivan, however, bought up vast land and going into construction venture, sold and leased housing at a considerable profit.
In 1827 Ooty became the official sanatorium for the Madras Presidency and the Madras Government began to move up there in hot season.
Ooty stands 2,240 metres (7,349 ft above sea level) in the Nilgiris or the Blue Mountains at the junction of the Western and the Eastern Ghats. The undulating countryside allows Ooty to spread over 36 sq. km. Sullivan, popularly known as the father of Ootacamund, had been the guiding and dominant figure in Ooty’s early years; his portrait still hangs in the Ootacamund Club.

There is an interesting anecdote about the origin of the name Ootacamund. The Toda while selling land to a Briton said in broken English “I take da money and Youtakedamund”.
Among the famous personalities who visited and stayed over a period in Ooty in the early period are Thomas Babington Macaulay, the famous academic and politician and Richard Burton, later to become a controversial explorer and Arabist.
When it was made the summer capital of Madras Presidency. Governors, governor generals and princes flocked to the hill station and its active club life rivalled any centre on the plains. It came to be called ‘Snooty Ooty’. Satellite hill stations grew up around it – Coonoor, Kotagiri and Wellington for the army. Tea became the leading cash crop of the area after the first bushes were introduced at an experimental farm in nearby Kettu by a French botanist. The best Nilgiri teas still rival Darjeeling tea for flavour. Chinchona for quinine, and coffee were also introduced. The hill station’s popularity increased still further after Independence and it is now the favourite hill station for southern Indian holiday makers.

Coonoor
Coonoor, 1,858 metres (6,096 ft) above sea level is the second largest station in the Nilgiris and lies on the eastern side of the Dodabetta range but easily accessible from the plains. It receives rain from north east monsoons. Coonoor rises up the sides of basin formed by the expansion of the Jakatala valley, at the mouth of a gorge and surrounded by wooded hills and it soon became rated in the south second only to Ooty. Its rainfall of sixty-three inches normally falls during the short period of ninetyone days.
Coonoor had several tea and coffee estates in the vicinity. The town was well kept, but the increasing population had strained the drainage system. The Europeans, as always, had occupied the upper level of the town, leaving the native bazaars to the valley below.
Situated at the principal pass from the plains, Coonoor offered several beautiful drives along twenty miles of excellent roads, along the sides of which grew hedges of roses, fuchsia and hellitrop; and magnificent vistas of the steep-sided valleys on either side of the ghat road.

Wellington
A British regiment was stationed in 1843 at a small village called Jakatala, one thousand feet below Ootacamund. An officers training college was built there in order to acclamatise new recruits for the Madras Regiment, and it was renamed Wellington, after the great Duke, in 1854. These barracks became HQ for the Southern Brigade of the 9th Secunderabd Division, turning Wellington into principal military sanatorium. It remained popular until 1947, when it became the site for the permanent quarters of Madras Regiment. Only eleven degrees from the Equator, Wellington has a temperate climate and a covering of rich soil, resulting in rapid and prolific growth of many varieties of fruit and vegetables on its intersecting hills and valleys.

Kotagiri

Kotagiri, founded in 1830, is perched among wooded slopes of the Nilgiris overlooking ravines and fertile valleys. This town became the seat of judgement for fortnightly crime trials. The climate here has long been preferred by many to that prevailing in Ooty as it is warmer and less exposed to the vagaries of the south-west monsoon.

Kodaikanal
Pre-historic artefacts have been found around Kodaikanal, indicating that it was once the home of now forgotten people who left behind mysterious megalithic structures, burial grounds, and tombs containing copper and brass implements and ornaments. In 1834 the collector of Madurai, built a house at the head of Shembagannur pass and the development of Kodaikanal began. Kodaikanal is situated on the upper crust of the Palni Hills at an elevation of 2000 m.
The first permanent homes in Kodaikanal were erected by a group of American missionaries, who had been based in Madurai who suffered many deaths from a fearful attack of cholera. They built a bungalow in Sirmalai hills, but its altitude of 4,000 ft gave some relief from the after effects of cholera, but not from malaria. They appealed to the British to help locate a more suitable site and soon the first two crude bungalows, named Sunnyside and Shelton, had appeared in Kodaikanal basin and six American families moved in. Soon British neighbours settled around them and Kodaikanal was on the map of South India.
Kodaikanal because of its situation is protected from the heavy monsoons which deluge nearby ranges from May to September. As light rain falls throughout the year the region is spared the occasional dry spells and water shortages which affect the Nilgiris.
The scenery with its grassy rolling downs and beautiful little shola woods and perennial streams flowing through them attracted the Europeans.

Alwaye
The early Portugese called Alwaye ‘Fiera d’Alva’ which was their favourite bathing place. It may, have been the very first hill station in the subcontinent, though we do not know when they first appeared at this small hill station in the former Travancore state. The resort boasted twice-weekly market with large trade in grain, fish and cattle. Alwaye popular also in Madras Presidency, now had a police station, post office, district hospital and unusual for a hill station, a custom house.
Alwaye, just 21 km away from Ernakulam is an ideal place for swimming in the river Periyar.

Munnar

Munnar, at 1,652 metres (5,420 ft), is a small town surrounded by the Anaimalai Hills and tea estates. It stands at the confluence of three rivers – the Muthirappuzha, Nallathani and Kundala. Moonu in Tamil means ‘three’ and aar ‘river’. The highest peak in South India – Anaimudi 2,695 m is just 20 kms from Munnar. Munnar was the favourite summer resort of European settlers for centuries but has taken place on the tourism map of India only recently. It was the best-kept secret among hill station destinations.

Tea gardens of Munnar

Until the second half of the 19th century, Munnar was part of an inhospitable and inaccessible area of thickly forested mountains. Its sole inhabitants were a tribal community called the Madhuvans, expert hunters and gatherers, who practised slash and burn cultivation. They still retain their customs although the pressures of modern life are eroding them. Officially Munnar belonged to the Poonjar Rajas of the state of Travancore.

Muvathpuza River, Munnar

The first European to venture into the area appears to have been the Duke of Wellington, when, as Colonel Arthur Wellesly, he marched across the ghats to fight Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in 1790. With Tipu’s defeat, though not at the hands of Wellington’s column, British influence in Kerala became supreme. Malabar was annexed from Mysore and the Rajas of Travancore and Cochin were subject to British interference.

Vellara Waterfalls near Munnar

The year 1887 marked the beginning of the opening up of the High Ranges. John Daniel Munro of Pimmede, an officer of Travancore state and superintendent of the Cardamom hills leased the hill tract from the government. Munroe explored the area by following elephant paths and began to bring planters, mainly Scots, to join him in clearing the jungle. Life for pioneers was hard.
In the 1890s, The Finlay Muir company moved into the hills and persuaded some of the proprietary planters to work for them. The company came to control almost all the estates in the area and its name is still preserved in the Indian company, Tata Finlay Ltd, which now owns them.Finlay Muir’s arrival did not make life any easier on the plantations. The hills were still inaccessible, except from the Tamil Nadu side. And so Tamil labourers were brought up to man the estates.
Planters experimented with rubber and chinchona before settling for tea which was transported by ropeways from Top Station outside Munnar to Bottom Station where it was packed in Imperial Chests shipped out from Britain and despatched to Tuticorin harbour. In 1908 a light railway was opened to take the tea from Munnar to Top Station, but it was destroyed by floods in 1924. In 1931, the ghat road from the Cochin side to Munnar was finally opened and Top Station was no longer needed to transport the tea.

Nilgiri Tahr, Eravikulam Park near Munnar
 
There are roads to Munnar from Cochin, 224 km to the west, and Thekkady, 117 km away. There is also a mountain road which links Munnar with Kodaikanal only 92 km to the east. This road is extremely beautiful and lonely. Munnar has now become quite a popular hill station with many tourist resorts.

Ponmudi

Ponmudi is on the fringes of the Western Ghats near Agasthyakoodam at 6,201 ft. Much less is known of the history of Ponmudi, also on a hilltop in Travancore state 3,281 ft up at the head of the basin of the Vamanapuram river 65 kms from Trivandrum. It is a hill station with a view of the ocean and located among tea plantations in the heart of misty mountain tops.

Courtallam

Though only 1450 ft above sea level, Courtallam is cooled by the summer monsoon in late May. This settlement became a spa town because of the warmth of the water delivered by its waterfalls.
Courtallam is referred to as the “Spa of the South”. Its a small village located half-way between the towns of Shencottai and Tenkasi in Tamilnadu. There are six waterfalls at Courtallam, spread out over an area of 10 sq. km, most people head for the Main Falls formed by the Chittar river thundering down over the huge steps of vertical rockface.
Some of the newer hill stations that have been developed or are in the process of being developed are briefly covered below:
Saputara (the Dangs, Gujarat)
Saputara is situated in the Western Ghats at the southern tip of Gujarat in the Dangs district at an elevation of 3,196 ft above sea level. Saputara means the “abode of Serpents”. Being a post-independence discovery, Saputara exudes a more desi charm than the usual colonial style hill stations. The Dangs is a tribal districtand there are tribal villages of Bhils, Warlis and Gamits among others. 

Saputara Town

There is also a museum which showcases the life and arts of tribal people that reside in the Dangs. The Dang tribals gave Saputara its name, for they come here during festivals such as Nag Panchami and Holi to worship the snake on the banks of Sarpaganga river. There is a placid lake which is the main attraction and the paddle boats operate throughout the year. The recently built ropeway is another attraction for the visitors. There is also the Hatgadh Fort and Pandava Caves nearby. Saputara is on the border of Maharashtra and only about 80 km from Nasik by road.

Malsej Ghat

Malsej Ghat is located in the Junnar region of Pune district at an altitude of 3,500 ft above sea level in the Western Ghats just 150 km from Mumbai. Malsej Ghat is located on a high plateau surrounded by the magical hills and the backwaters of Pimpal-gaon Joga dam. In the monsoons, the Western Ghats come into their own when the rain begins to lash against them and a series of waterfalls are formed. Harishchandra-gad Fort is nearby on a mountain that rises about 4,670 ft. 

Malsej Ghat
 
Atop the fort is a huge plateau and Harishchandreshwar Mandir. There is also a point behind the temple over-looking the awe inspiring Konkan Kada, a horse-shoe shaped valley with sheer cliff faces. Droves of pink-legged European flamingoes migrate here for about a month every year between July and September. They come here to breed in the marshy backwaters of Pimpalgaon Joga dam.

Kudremukh

Kudremukh, at 6,214 ft elevation in Malnad region of Karnataka, again is a hill resort that is developed during post independence. It is located just 95 km southwest of Chickmagalur. Kudremukh peak is close to the township that has been developed by Kudremukh Iron Ore Company that has extensive mining operations in the area.

River Bhadra at Kalasa

The area is now designated as a National Park, which has extensive evergreen forests and sholas. Ganganamula, the source of three important rivers – Tunga, Bhadra and Netravathi is located in the Bhagwati forest range in this area.
Kudremukh National Park with an area of 600.32 sq. km is situated in two districts – Dakshina Kannada and Chickmagalur.

Kudremukh Forests
 
 
The area is home to Lion-tailed macaque, a highly endangered species. Other species include Panther, Tiger, Sloth Bear, Sambar, Malabar squirrel, Wild Pig and Gaur. Kalasa is a picturesque town located on the Banks of Bhadra river is just 20 km from Kudremukh and has many places of tourist interest nearby.
B. R. Hills
Biligiri Rangaswamy Range lies between the Kaveri and Kapila rivers in southern Karnataka. The area is a thick forest of moist and dry deciduous forests with patches of shola rainforest. The altitude varies from 750 to 1,816 metres, the highest point being Kattari Betta in the southern point of the sanctuary.

Lake at B. R. Hills
BRT is a designated wildlife sanctuary spread over an area of 539 sq. kms in the Biligiri Rangaswamy and Male Mahdeshwara ranges which forms an important link between the Eastern and the Western Ghats. The wildlife includes Tiger, leopard, Elephant, Cheetal, Sambar, Sloth Bear, Gaur, Langur, Spotted Deer, Peafowl and Grey Jungle Fowl.
The Soligas are the oldest tribal inhabitants of these forests, with a population of about 20,000. The Soligas have co-existed with the forest for centuries in quiet harmony and have a rich traditional knowledge and cultural life. A few tourist resorts have now come up in the B. R. Hills.

Wayanad

Wayanad lies on the southern slopes of the Brahmagiri hills that separate Kerala and Karnataka at the junction of Nilgiri hills. Wayanad has now become a tourist hill destination because it offers spectacular mountain settings, a rich variety of wildlife in its sanctuaries and tribal settlements. The tourist centres are Tholpetty, Lakkidi, Vythiri, Kalpetta and Sultan Battery (Batheri). Ancient Jain Temple at Sultan Battery
 
The Wayanad hills were conquered by Tipu Sultan but after his defeat the English army fought with Pazhassi Rajah who killed himself and the East India Company established its rule in Wayanad. Phookoot Lake, Wayanad
The Muthanga Wildlife Sanc-tuary also called Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary was set up in 1973 and became part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. There are also two more sanctuaries – Begur and Tholpetty.
Wayanad is homeland to many tribal communities. Prominent among them are Paniya, Adiya, Kuruchia, Kattunayaka and Kuruma tribes.

Silent Valley

The Silent Valley lies in the densely forested hills of northern Palakkad in Kerala.
The Silent Valley is one of the least disturbed extensive patches of tropical monsoon forests in the Western Ghats which was almost destroyed by a proposed hydroelectric power project. In the event, a historic movement by environmentalists forced the Kerala State Electricity Board to abandon the project and made the state government declare the fragile area a protected national park.
Both the Silent Valleys best-known endangered primates – the Lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur – are listed in IUCN’s Red Book of threatened animals. Today, the Silent Valley Park is in the core area of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve of the Western Ghats. One popular explanation traces the origin of the name ‘Silent Valley’ to the absence of cicadas, characteristic of any rain forest.
In recorded history, no human has ever made the Silent Valley his or her home. The topograhic isolation of the plateau, cut off on all sides by steep ridges and escarpments, has prevented human habitation, and so the forests here remained undisturbed until the middle of the 19th century. That isolation has also allowed the valley to endure as an ‘ecological island’, preserving the fauna and flora for over 50 million years that is said to be the evolutionary age of the Silent Valley.

Thekkady

Thekkady, at an elevation of 3,300 ft above sea level has become a popular tiger reserve and is set around Periyar lake. Periyar lake itself is an artificial lake formed during the construction of the Mullaperiyar dam in 1895 – that explains the dead tree trunks and branches sticking out of the water. These trees were submerged in the waters of the dam. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over 777 sq. km, roughly half of which is dense evergreen forest, savannah grassland and moist deciduous forest.

Periyar Lake

The sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 1978 under Project Tiger, and so the name Periyar Tiger Reserve is sometimes used to denote the place as well. Thekkady Junction is the central part of the Periyar sanctuary, and has a number of tourist resorts.

Nelliampathy
Nelliampathy is another hill station destination which is becoming popular of late.
This is a small, tea-and-orange hill station situated 75 km from Palakkad and 40 km south of Nenmara, the nearest town.
Nelliampathy is in the midst of evergreen forests and orange plantations. The forests are part of the Sahya Range of the Western Ghats. There are a number of hill resorts at the top including one run by Kerala District Tourist Promotion Council.

Nelliampathy Reservoir

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