Destination Travel

A town called Pollachi

Perumal Karudu a perfect lookout

Perumal Karudu a perfect lookout  

If I had written this earlier, I would have waxed eloquent about the magnificent trees lining the road from Coimbatore to Pollachi. Sometimes they formed a canopy overhead, other times they just stood there, solid, providing sanctuary to birds, bees and humans. Today, it is a parched, barren stretch — dusty, hot, with plastic bags flying around and garbage everywhere. And in the midst are the felled trees, shorn of leaves, their branches hacked, quite dead. “It is like a graveyard,” shudders Keerthana Balaji, and says S Pravin, “I can’t bring myself to drive on that road any more. I take a detour, even if it means another 40 kilometres.” This avenue of trees that never failed to elicit ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from their guests is no more now.

But, the fiercely proud Pollachi vaasis Balaji and Pravin are not about to give up, yet. They take a deep breath and share the other less-known charms of their beloved town.

Pollachi is neighbour to the beautiful Anamalai hills, so half its battle is won right there. Hills within easy reach, ponds, farmlands, coconut plantations, a tiger reserve not too far off... And, if you have a mind to explore the town itself, there is plenty to soak up. Like the maatu santhai or cattle market that has been doing business for hundreds of years. Even now, if you are there on a Tuesday or a Thursday, you will find it all a bustle. Those are the days when sellers and buyers of cattle congregate there. Sometimes, they come the day before and camp overnight. Pravin says, “There was a time when they would walk for 20 to 30 days to get here. It is a noisy, rough and ready environment on those days,” says Pravin, but offers a word of caution. “If you want to take in the market, go with a local person or guide.” And the cattle fair around Pongal is a grand affair.

Balaji and Pravin love a walk in their flower market. That is also more than a 100 years old. It sits in Theru Mutti (so called perhaps because the temple chariots took this route). There are three temples here — Subramania Swamy kovil, Mariamman kovil and Ganesha kovil. “If you enjoy crowds and the buzz, the perfect time to visit is during festivals. Flowers from across the State find their way here.” The colours and fragrance are overwhelming and photo ops abound, says Balaji, a professional photographer herself. Besides these, Pollachi is also listed as a huge market for jaggery.

If you like to go back more than a mere hundred years, there is Perumal Karadu. It well-served various armies (pursuing and the pursued), as it was a vantage lookout point. And the Romans were here too. Excavations have thrown up Roman coins, weapons and shields. “There are no armies there today, but Perumal Karadu is still the perfect place for spectacular sunrises and sunsets. And there is always the possibility of encountering wildlife there,” says Pravin. Again, he warns, “There is no road and the only way up is to climb rough steps carved out of the hillside. In places, the climb is almost vertical. So it is for the stout of legs, heart and a head for heights.”

I bought a maroon checked sari, just as the weaver was removing it from the loom, on a visit to Pollachi. It was at a village called Negamam. There are thousands of weavers in the area, and with a little help from locals, you can head off in your favourite direction, and get the bragging rights over fresh, bright and hot-off-the loom saris.

Bajji paati makes the best fritters

Bajji paati makes the best fritters  

She may not be a glorious 100, like everything else seems to be in this bucolic town, but paati and her bajji shack have been a fixture at Mahalingapuram near the Police Station there, for as long as anyone can remember. Legions of fans have made a beeline there, especially on rainy days, to huddle around her cauldron of hot oil that yields the most delicious capsicum, banana, onion and chilli bajjis, besides bondas and vadais. She has a way with bajjis, they swear.

A few more things to do

Visit weavers at Negamam

Watch birds at Sethumadai

Picnic on the Aliyar

Kayak at the Thirumoorthy Dam

Trek at Topslip (you may spot the big tiger as it is part of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve)

Eat at Arun Mess and Shanthi Mess

Balaji and Pravin bring out a quarterly magazine called The Pollachi Papyrus with information about their hometown. Visit www.thepapyrus.in or call +91 8344330416, for details.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 3:04:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/a-town-called-pollachi/article19545108.ece

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