The police must do something to stop liquor consumption at this public place, say nature lovers and locals

What does Madurai have to showcase beyond the classic Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, the vandalised Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the remains of ancient Jain caves in Keezhakuyilkudi among other places?

This question might put many in a fix, making them scratch their heads and squeeze their brains for an answer. Nevertheless, a serious attempt at discovering the landscape shows that Madurai has in store many natural locales that remain unspoilt, well almost. One such ecologically rich site is Pulloothu, situated on the foothills of Nagamalai near here and named after a perennial spring flowing from an unknown source in the hill range.

The spring can be accessed either through a cart road on the Madurai-Theni highway, less than 100 metres off the Samayanallur-Virudhunagar four-lane highway intersection or through a better pathway that branches off from the Madurai-Melakkal highway , a few feet away from the four-lane highway. Going through a thick green cover, the journey is bliss for any nature lover.

Situated on the way to the spring is a rehabilitation home run by M.S. Chellamuthu Trust for the mentally challenged. Stopping by the home and watching its inmates perform their daily chores on their own is a stimulating experience. “Living as close as possible to nature helps these people recover fast. That is why we chose to set up this home at this place,” says its caretaker K. Rajangam.

A rocky pathway adjacent to the home leads to the spring which keeps flowing even now despite lack of rains. A cubical stone structure had been created, at an unknown period, for the water to get collected for a short while before flowing down to the fields. Adjacent to the spring is a huge mango tree that serves as the roof for deities Raakkaayi, Nagamaal, Murugan and Pillaiyar.

The idol of Lord Perumal and his consort have been broken by some miscreants leaving behind only their feet with iron rods protruding upwards. This is not the only sore point at this beautiful locale as it has come to be dominated by drunkards who had virtually turned the area into an open-air bar much to the annoyance of tourists and women devotees of the deities.

K. Sekar, a ward member of Melamaathur panchayat, says: “There is a belief that married woman without issues would beget a child if they take bath in this spring. Therefore, many women from the city used to visit this place until about five years ago. But all that has stopped owing to the ruckus raised by the drunk who break bottles and pick up fights.”

The ward member himself cannot dare to visit the place, for grazing his cattle, without a billhook to safeguard him. “One cannot predict when these guys will get wild. While some groups of people come here, enjoy their drink and go away quietly, others turn violent in an inebriated mood. So, a weapon is a must to keep them at bay,” he adds.

Screwing up his face on finding empty liquor bottles and beer cans strewn all over the place, G. Vasudevan, an youngster from Kerala who had come to the spot along with his Madurai friend, suggests that the site could be developed as a trekking spot rather than being allowed to get converted as a mega bar under a natural setting.

Disturbed to see youngsters in groups, of different sizes, not hesitating to raise their glasses for a toast just yards away from a battered bust of Swami Vivekananda at a private property located adjacent to the spring and owned by a Hindu spiritual organisation, he opines: “The police must do something to stop this nuisance.”

Approached for his reaction, a police officer attached to Nagamalai Pudukottai station, says his team usually visits the spot on Sundays and chases away the drunkards. “So far we have not received major complaints of drunkards coming to the area on weekdays. Now that we have been alerted, we will keep a vigil on weekdays also,” he adds.

Apart from Pulloothu, there are also six other springs — Paaloothu, Kaloothu, Kaakaaoothu, Thalaioothu, Naagar Theertham and Narayanapuram Oothu – adjoining the locality. And the situation there is no different. The managing trustees of a private temple at Naagar Theertham have even put up a wall painting warning people against using the place for drinking liquor.

T. Alagarsamy, a seller of puja articles outside the temple, says the drunk manage to escape the eyes of the police.

He feels that both the revenue as well as police officials should join together to keep an end to the menace in the interest of preserving sites that remain serene despite their proximity to the hustle and bustle of city life.

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