Road less travelled Travel

This Tamil Nadu village is known for its Instagrammable sunflower fields

Sunflower patch at Sundarapandiapuram   | Photo Credit: Liza George

Sundarapandiapuram has been on my list of must-see places ever since I saw a travelogue featuring this rustic village with its fields of sunflowers, a much-photographed sight. While it isn’t exactly, a hop, skip and jump from the city, the drive out to Sundarapandiapuram is well worth it for these blooms. With good roads and clear skies, one can drive to this village in Tamil Nadu from Thiruvananthapuram in three-and-a-half hours.

Anniyan para

Anniyan para   | Photo Credit: Liza George

 

Hoping to paint my Instagram feed yellow, I head for Sundarapandiapuram. My guide to the village Venkatesh S waits by the village post office. He directs me to a private patch of sunflowers. Sundarapandiapuram is an agricultural village and most of its residents own land. While the farmers are into cultivating rice, onions, corn, coriander and the like, sunflower was added to that list 15 years ago when a sunflower seed company encouraged them to plant a few patches as a trial run. “And we have been planting them ever since, although in 2017, due to severe drought, we didn’t plant any. You won’t need to travel all the way to Italy for Instagrammable photographs amidst sunflower fields,” he says.

Sunflower seeds are usually sown by mid-June, and in 90 to 100 days, the flowers reach full bloom. And if you think the flowers grace vases or are part of the flower carpet spread during Onam, Venkatesh is quick to dispel them. The sunflower seeds are harvested for making edible sunflower oil. “We sell the seeds by the quintal to various sunflower oil companies.”

How to get there
  • Sundarapandiapuram is around 122 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram. The nearest towns are Courtallam, Shenkottai and Tenkasi.
  • Where to stay
  • There are no eateries or hotels in this village.
  • Things to do
  • See the sunflowers usually in full bloom in August. Visit Anniyan para, around six kilometres from Sundarapandiapuram.

At first, I see only green, and then I spot it, flecks of gold dancing in the wind. (Quick note: Unless you want a picture akin to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic flying skirt pose, I suggest no skirts or dresses, as the wind is rather strong here.) The sunflowers stand tall amidst the green, a slice of sunshine on earth. Some of the stalks tower over me. As I snap several Instagram pictures in the fields, Venkatesh says, “Most farmers cordon off their sunflowers as over-enthusiastic photographers tend to damage the stalks in their quest for that perfect shot. Dogs guard their plots.”

Rock art

Next on the list is a visit to Anniyan para that stands on the way to Sundarapandiapuram. Venkatesh insists that we go there. “The popular Tamil song ‘Andang Kaka’ in Shankar’s Anniyan was shot here. Earlier, it was known as Roja para, as a few scenes from the movie were shot on that rock, but its real name is Puliyur para. In fact, the reason why our village shot to fame was due to Roja; the agraharam scenes were taken in our village.”

Our car stops by a huge, rather unimpressive-looking rock formation, which we start to climb. Two young men are taking selfies and I can’t help but wonder why until I see it — Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, MGR... staring at me.

Agraharam at Sundarapandiapuram

Agraharam at Sundarapandiapuram   | Photo Credit: Liza George

 

Venkatesh laughs at my reaction and says: “The art team of Anniyan did this. They painted these images for the song. The paintings have faded over the years, though.”

We head back to the village for lunch, which is at Venkatesh’s relative’s house. There are no eateries here expect for one or two tiny shacks. Meena amma, as she likes to be addressed, is all smiles as she ushers me into her dining room. The table is all set — piping hot rice, sambar, rasam and a thoran (vegetable dish). A simple, yet tasty lunch.

Post lunch, Venkatesh and I set off to explore the famous agraharam, which is a popular setting for many Tamil and Malayalam films and sitcoms. “We are so used to seeing film shoots and movie stars here that it is no longer exciting. Most of the stars have visited or dined at our homes. In fact, quite a few of us have starred as extras in various films.”

The village is quiet with just a handful of residents outside of their homes. People are all smiles and welcoming. The homes stand close together like linked houses. While some are modern in look, some have retained the traditional decor with carved pillars, intricate roof patterns, old-fashioned doors... There are around 180 families in this agraharam and almost everyone is related to the other.

Radha Narasimham

Radha Narasimham   | Photo Credit: Liza George

 

Venkatesh grins when I tell him I smell a delectable aroma coming from one of the houses. He takes me into the house and introduces me to Radha, who is busy making kai murukku. “Radha akka is our resident snack maker. Her snacks and sweets are famous across nearby villages and towns. We even have people from Thiruvananthapuram ordering from her.”

 

After tasting nearly all of Radha’s snacks, we walk towards the theppakulam. I can spot windmills across the pond. Venkatesh says, the residents come here in the evening, sit, talk and enjoy the evening breeze.

The sun is almost setting when I leave. After a strong, ginger tea at Meena’s place, I head back thinking of this little village with its smiling villagers, picturesque landscapes and golden blooms that has captured my heart.


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Printable version | Sep 11, 2021 5:28:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/this-village-is-known-for-its-instagrammable-sunflower-fields/article26652439.ece

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