If you are looking for a cinematic setting, says SOMA BASU
Ignore the dam. Just enjoy the location. Sathiar has probably been in the news for many mundane reasons - receding or rising water level or the impending threat of floods. But the truth is that barely 50 km from Madurai on the Vadipatti-Palamedu Road lies hidden a small but beautiful place that comes upon you as a surprise.
As long as you are on the Madurai-Dindigul highway, the drive is smooth. But a right turn off the highway towards Sathiar makes your journey a nightmare. For, what exists is an apology for a road - a narrow pebbled track. The car can't cruise beyond 20 kmph and you have no option but to hear the engine whine painfully and the pebbles crunch under the tyres. In between, there are some telltale signs of a tar road perhaps laid long ago. On these stretches, the villagers spread out thick layers of raagi husk, which get crushed by the vehicle, adding to the irritating sound. I try to focus on the fields on either side of the road to break the monotony of the journey, but to be honest it doesn't help much as the unpleasant sound continues. After about 45 minutes, the scenario changes your mood. Sathiar is like a cinematic setting in the least expected place - hills in the background, a placid body of water in the forefront on which fall the golden rays of the sun and the reflection of the surrounding hills. There is pin-drop silence all around except for the rustle of dry leaves beneath your feet. The best thing is to sit quietly by the bund and take in the scene. Catch the occasional chirping of birds and let the serenity grow on you.
Ideal for a day's outing
As the day progresses, sit under the shade of the innumerable trees planted around. If you are going alone, take your favourite book and some snacks to munch on. But take care not to litter the place. Sathiar is ideal for a day's outing with the family. Apart from the usual picnic, you can try your hand at fishing or watch birds. At one end of the water body, you will find a variety of birds nesting. You need a pair of binoculars to spot the herons and egrets. You can walk along the embankment but take care not to slip. The surrounding hills are covered with a carpet of flora. I learn that the area is home to a sizeable population of bison. It is not advisable to trek on your own without prior permission from the Forest Department.