Thandikudi is where the hills tell many tales and Nature paints colourful pictures, writes SOMA BASU
Right through I was the lone traveller on this road at an altitude of 1,600 m. Popularly known as Half Kodai, Thandikudi remains a less-explored destination. Yet the hidden hills offer much more than you can experience in tourist-infested Kodaikanal just 45 km away. The winding path up 23 hairpin bends took me far away from the heat and dust towards the swirling mist, lush vegetation, and tranquillity.
Surrounded by the green Palani hills enveloped in small shola forests, Thandikudi is like a mini hill station. But the place is not just about Nature. It is an equally important hotspot for history, religion, archaeology, science, research and medicinal plants and trekkers.
The name comes from the belief of the locals that Lord Muruga jumped from this spot and over the hill to reach Palani. Thandi in Tamil means to jump across and Kudi, is clan-based settlement.
It is also believed the lord was brought back to Thandikudi as Balamuruga by Pandrimalai Swamigal. These stories are substantiated by the existence of a Balamurugan temple said to be 2,000 years old and renovated and maintained by the villagers for the past 64 years. Devotees say that a visit to Palani is complete only if a pilgrim starts from Thandikudi. By the side of the temple, there is another rock that appears as a peacock (Lord Muruga’s vahanam) holding a snake. There is also a small perennial spring on another rock in which is reflected the shape of Lord Muruga’s spear and it is considered to be the sacred teertham of the temple.
The temple caretaker Pandithurai took me on a short tour of the temple. But before that several other things fascinated me — the smooth tar road dotted with coffee and cardamom plantations, rolling green hills filled with vanilla, pepper, hill banana, citron, and the dense forests. In the valley below, gleamed Marudanadi, a water body reflecting the silver rays of the sun.
I took a small detour to the watch tower at Pannaikadu. From here was visible a peak called the ‘periya malai’ by virtue of it being the tallest and a cluster of rocks called the ‘ponnu mapillai’ rock.
My drive up to the temple took me past the Central Coffee Research Institute, the Cardamom Research Institute and the Regional Spice Board Research Station. What excited me further was Thandikudi’s connection to Megalithic times. A dolmen’s cave emerged by the side of the hill. The dolmen is in need of attention given the presence of vestiges that make Thandikudi an archaeological site of importance.
I was not done yet what with a small waterfall called the kattel kasam to be seen and the sound of my voice to be tested at the ‘Echo’ rock. Pandithurai, the only person I met on my journey, told me the story of how Thandikudi was associated with Sangam Age chieftains, Tondrikon and Kodaiporunan. Inscriptions from 1280 A.D. record the name of this village as ‘Tanrikudi’. Tanri is a variety of tree famous for its medicinal value and found in abundance here.
There are quite a few routes etched out for treks and Pandithurai suggested Thandikudi should be explored on foot as it is a bird lover’s paradise. Koels, egrets, eagles, mynahs, spotted doves, magpie robins and red-vented bulbuls are common.
This lonely travel in a crowded planet was worth it.
Thandikudi is 56 km from Dindigul, 45 km from Kodaikanal, 88 km from Palani, 97 km from Madurai and 126 km from Thekkady. It is situated 47 km northeast of Batlagundu. It can also be reached by the Palani-Oddanchatram check post.
What not to miss
Apart from trekking, bird watching and visiting the Balamurugan Temple you can also check out the Kariyamal Temple, Maayandi Temple, Kadavu Malai and the panoramic view of the valley from Sangu Parai view point.
Where to stay
Kodaikanal and Dindigul have many good hotels. Thandikudi too has a handful of places to stay.