Travel

The hills are alive

Pallavaram hill: This bustling suburb has a deep history of being inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age.  

They let you explore, discover, meditate, worship, identify plants and birds. They reward you with some of the best 360-degree views of Chennai city. In one happy moment, a lake was discovered by trekkers from the top of a hill. “A couple of years ago, standing on top of the hill, a group of us spotted this dip close to our compound wall. The villagers said it was the Arasangazhani-Vedanthangal eri,” says D. Babu of Bollineni Hillside, a gated community. The lake has since been restored. With so much going to their credit, it is unfortunate that Chennai’s hills don’t get their due as go-to places in tourist catalogues.

Perumbakkam hill

“How do we get to the foothill?” we asked, standing in front of the charming Perumbakkam hill. Just look at it from here, warned two women out to work. “Someone was attacked in the forest last week.” We drove around, looking for a proper road, took directions frequently, only to find ourselves where we started. On the way, we had spotted a half-hidden board marking it as a protected area, and to our utter delight saw the Perumbakkam check dam.

Back in front of the hill, we walked across a ditch to a clearing ravaged by mud-robbers in lorries. But we had left the city bustle behind, and the early morning air was filled with birdsong and the smell of lantana. It’s a rocky climb, but an activity that showers prizes. We sat under a naval maram to eat our sandwiches, identified several species of trees, went around a wild tulsi bush, followed the gurgle of a stream for a while. The water from a small depression at the top reaches the lake through an underground pipe. The aim is to reach the sanctum of an old temple that is now in ruins.

Get to Nookampalayam, Perumbakkam Road, to admire the historical hill. Perumbakkam is connected to Tambaram through the Velachery-Tambaram Road and to Sholinganallur through the Medavakkam-Sholinganallur Road. The Great Trigonometrical Survey of the landmass of India by Major Lambton in 1802 CE was started from the measurement of a small section of plain land with Perumbakkam Hill on the southern end.

Pallavaram hill

The hill keeps a benign eye on the Pallavaram chandai, and you get near it through the southern side of Tirusulam station. As you climb, stop to stare often — the scenery changes quite a bit. And keep your eyes peeled for cacti — the wild variety can give you a nasty gash. Trek for an hour to reach the top and raise a “thank you” for the wonderful view of the city. Watch planes take off and land at the airport and speculate what that mosque-like structure could be.

Pallavaram or Pallava-puram is about 17 kilometres from Chennai city. This bustling suburb has a deep history of being inhabited since the Palaeolithic Age. The British, who created the cantonment and aerodrome, also carried out mining on Pallavaram hill. So if you kick a stone on the hill, remember, it could be a valuable piece of charnockite rock, believed to have healing properties.

Thiruneermalai

If you haven’t seen the majestic temple from the by-pass, Thiruneermalai is 5 km away from Pallavaram bus stop on the Guindy-Tambaram route. What better time than this to hear the story of Neervanna Perumal, the deity at this hill temple that’s more than a 1000 years old! There are several, in fact, but the priests prefer to tell you this one: When Tirumangai Azhwar came for a darshan, he found that heavy rains had made the mount an island. Azhwar decided to wait for the water to recede. He had to wait for six months before the water level dipped and he could do the darshan. It’s an easy climb to the temple at the top. Tall neem veppaalai trees on either side keep the heat away. Ancient construction has ensured that steps are easy on your knees. While coming down, don’t miss the arrangement — every second step is kept hidden. Chembarambakkam lake, the channel through which the infamous water flow took place, and the area where it joined the Adyar river, are visible, along with the beautiful temple tank filled with sparkling water. “The area was not inundated,” says the priest.

St. Thomas Mount

There is also the popular St. Thomas Mount. As you climb the 160 steps to the shrine built in 1523, stop to look at the 14 stations of the cross on the way. That’s a great way to catch your breath before you go breathless at another stunning view of the city!

Which one are you starting with?


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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 12:31:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/take-a-trek-on-chennais-hills/article8018023.ece

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