There is enough to satiate history and Nature lovers at Nirmal, says Vishnupriya Bhandaram
Nirmal is a small, unassuming town, nestled in the Sahayadri mountain range, amidst the hillocks and jungles of Adilabad. Take the NH7 from Hyderabad and drive past the towns of Medchal, Toopran, Kamareddy and Armoor and 210 km later you'll find yourself in historic Nirmal.
Forts line its periphery and also form the core although most of them are in a shambles. Head to Soangarh or Soan Fort, 12km from Nirmal. Shyamgarh and Battisgarh are two other important forts in the vicinity. Mostly deserted, the forts offer solitude as you climb up the rickety steps and trace the path to hidden doors and windows. Khila Gutta also called Nirmal Fort is located in the town, near the Devarakonda Temple. There is a well located inside the fort, called the Atta-Kodalla bavi (Mother-in law, daughter-in-law well). You can get a beautiful view of the town from this fort, but it's tough finding your way through the shrubs and undergrowth that dot the fort. According to local history enthusiast and author of Nirmal Charitra, Ankam Ramulu, most of the forts in and around Nirmal were built around 1650 under the rule of Srinivasa Rao. Even though, not much is documented about these forts, the sheer size and magnificence of the ruins is enough to draw attention. If you're lucky you can even spot a few peacocks perched atop the fort walls.
Appease your appetite for Nature and head to the breathtaking Kuntala waterfalls. Kuntala is 12 km from Neredikonda village that is approximately 45 km from Nirmal, on the NH7. The road to the falls is flanked by lush green fields and dense forests. Kuntala waterfalls is a long stretch with many smaller waterfalls that form the drum roll to the point where the Kadam river falls from a height of about 45 meters. This waterfall is the highest in Andhra Pradesh. Legend has it that the falls were named after Shakuntala, wife of king Dushyanta who is said to have bathed here. The view is resplendent, rocky slopes and a steady flow of fresh water.
To reach the falls you have to climb down almost 408 steps to reach the lowest point. A shorter, dangerous and more adventurous route would be to walk along the path of the water on the rocks, because the boulders are bare when the water levels recede, showing the vast fissures and wrinkles on the rocky slopes. Walk down the slope; let your feet feel the smooth rocks. However, this route is only advised under supervision. The path is extremely steep if not slippery and safe only in the drier months. Nature is at its best here, the silence is broken only by the chirp of birds and gush of water. Soak yourself in the pure, cold water. There is a temple nearby dedicated to Someshwara Swami, that can be accessed through a crevice in the hillock.
Another waterfall in the Adilabad district is the Pochera Waterfall, which is 6km from Neredikonda village. The river Godavari that runs as many separate streams converges at Pochera and gushes with speed, falling from a height of 20 meters.
If you want to experience the religious culture of Adilabad, head to the Kadile Papahareshwara Temple, 40 km from Nirmal. It is believed that the idol of Lord Papahareshwara swings and thus the prefix, ‘kadile', which means moving. The Basara Saraswathi temple is located 70km from Nirmal. The temple is built at the confluence of the Manjira and Godavari rivers.
Nirmal is known for its colourful wooden toys. The tradition of making these wooden toys dates back to 400 years. The toys are carved from local softwood —‘ponki chekka'. Various parts of the toys are glued together and coated with ‘chinta lappam' — a combination of sawdust and boiled tamarind seeds. Indigenously prepared hues are used. Nirmal might not sit perfect on the tourist-friendly radar but the small town grows on you with its piping hot dosa or the overtly-sweet coffee at Geetha Bhavan. Heritage and Nature come together in Nirmal's humble nooks and crannies, that could make for a memorable getaway.
Getting there: Nirmal is approximately 210km from Hyderabad. State transport buses are available to the town, with online booking facilities. It takes five to six hours by bus. You can chart the journey in less than four hours if you're driving down or hiring a cab. The roads are smooth for most part of the ride, except for a few bumpy breaks here and there. Cab services are also available from both Hyderabad and Nirmal. Once in Nirmal you can hire auto rickshaws for transportation inside and around the town, although it is advisable to hire a cab for the day.
When to go: The best time to visit Nirmal is between September and January.
Where to stay: There are only two main motels in Nirmal — Sri Krishna Residency and Hotel Tirumala, so make your bookings in advance.