PALANI HILLS

PALANI HILLS

The Palani Hills are an eastern spur of the southern Western Ghats located in Tamil Nadu. They are named for the temple town of Palani, which is home to the most important Murugan temple in India. The hills form a lofty plateau averaging about 2000 meters. The slopes are covered in a variety of scrub, deciduous and evergreen forests. The higher hills once hosted large areas of the shola/grasslands. Most of this has been converted to monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, pinus and acacia species. There are notable bird watching sites in the Palanis and there are also significant populations of gaur, Nilgiri langur, Malabar giant squirrels and other mammals.

The south Indian hill-station of Kodaikanal, the main settlement in the Palanis, has long attracted an eclectic variety of visitors looking for something out of the ordinary in a hill sojourn. Founded in 1845 by Yankee missionaries drawn from a generation that produced Thoreau and Emerson, Kodai was not your typical imperialist summer retreat. In the decades after independence, Kodai blissfully stayed in the shadows of its northern neighbor Ooty. Alas, the days in which Kodai was a well-kept secret of honeymooners and hippies is now long gone. Today it suffers the usual malaise of hill-stations: crowded roads, vehicular pollution, noisy people, scant water supplies etc. Despite this, Kodai still offers something unusual not often highlighted in tourist brochures. The lake, vistas and viewpoints are well known. Less recognized are the unique shola forests, their endemic plants and bird life. Reassuringly, a colorful collection of Kodai citizens has been active on environmental issues in the township and hills. There are campaigns against plastic, efforts to restore native vegetation, farmers selling organic vegetables, widespread use of water harvesting and a growing awareness of the fragility of this magical place called Kodai.

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