Attappadi (Attapady) and Perumalmudi
Attappadi (Attapady) is a bowl shaped valley of the Western Ghats, surrounded by lofty peaks having an average altitude of 200 to 800 meters above sea level. The forests are mostly deciduous and thorny with dwarf trees and grasslands. This region lies to the north of Palakkad Gap and south of Ooty: the popular hill station. There is a less popular road from Attappady to ooty. Attappadi (Attapady) is a part of Palakkad district of Kerala bounded by Coimbatore district of Tamilnadu to the east. The northern boundary of Attappadi (Attapady) is marked by Ooty (Nilgiris) hills and the south by Walayar (Also known as Palakkad gap, the only gap in the Western Ghats). Attappady is visited mostly by people from Coimbatore for a week end trip or evening trip: As it is the closest and most accessible hill station from Coimbatore. The famous Silent Valley National Park is located in Attappadi (Attapady).
You will find a mixture of Kerala and Tamilnadu culture in the surrounding area as Attappadi (Attapady) was a part of Tamilnadu and was handled over to Kerala – even the language is a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam (Tamil that did not evolve into Malayalam, known as chentamil, Malayalam originated from Tamil).
Until a few decades ago, Attappadi (Attapady) was the home to a variety of tribes like Irulas and Paniyars who lived in harmony with nature. During the last decade a lot of people from central and northern Kerala migrated to Attappadi (Attapady), looking for a new life and new lands for agriculture. Even with frequent droughts and famines, many of them were successful and still lives in the areas around Goolikadavu, Agali, Mukkal etc.
Today the number of migrants, who does agriculture or run shops and business, has outreached the number of tribes, who still hunt inside the forests for firewood and food.
There are several hills and hill ranges at Attappady or Attappadi. Most of them are barren and grasslands due to all round the year strong winds.The top soil is very thin and large trees cannot grow here. Most plants are thorny. Banyan-trees are so common on most of these rocks.
Attappadi (Attapady) is surrounded by four major hills, Malleeshwaram, Vellingiri and Perumal mudi which are believed to be holy. A temple is built at the pinnacle of every hill, and poojas are performed every year. Atleast one of the the four hills are at the vicinity mostly anywhere in Attappadi (Attapady) and it is believed that, houses must be constructed only at the vicinity of these hills.
My visit to Attappadi (Attapady)
I was invited to Attappadi (Attapady) by Dominic Xavier to his lodge Malleeshwaram Jungle Lodge (http://www.malleeshwaram.com). More than that, I wanted to test my new lens, a gigantic Sigma 150 500 lens by birding and wilding. So I thought Attappadi (Attapady) was the best place to start near my house at Coimbatore.
Our trek To Perumal Mudi in Attappadi, Kerala
It was an auspicious day. I woke up at 6 AM early morning, hearing the call “Georga Georgae” from Babychayan (Manager of Lodge, who is popularly known as Achayan) waiting with a whole flask of white tea sweetened with honey.
Our trek to Perumal mudi consisted six of us including me, two village boys and two men from village, headed by Dominic. We packed food stuffs and necessary equipments: were ready by 7 AM, . We left the lodge, heading east to Petickal town, after giving our prayers to Vellingiri Andavar – believed to be the god at the Vellingiri Pinnacle (Can be seen from the restaurant and is a popular week end trip for Coimbatorians). Pettickal town is a semi-traditional town of Attappadi (Attapady), with 4-5 shops, inhibited by mostly people from central Kerala. The road was narrow with little traffic: 2-3 jeeps or cars every hour.
A small tribal hamlet at half way of Perumalmudy. The tribes of Attappadi believed that mountains were holy and never lived or ventured unnecessarily on the hills.They made a point to built the hamlets near the hills. This is one of such hamlet on Perumalmudi near a little modern town called Pettickal.
On both sides of the road were plantations of Cashew nuts and Coffee. There were a few houses and children playing cricket in front. All around us was Hills and we could see both the Vellingiri and Perumalmudi. We continued along a road leading to Perumalmudi on our left. Steep ups and downs. There were houses made of mud and roofs made with coconut palm leaves. This area was inhibited mostly by tribal.
After a hour we reached the dead end of road, half way down the hill. There was a small hamlet called Uru (As known in the local language),which was inhibited by about 15 families. A beautiful spot with Perumalmudi to our left and a deep valley to our right. We could spot out several tribal hamlets spread like galaxies along the hill slopes.
The tribes of Attappadi also known as Attappadi always worshiped their Primordial gods: which were usually hills, plants, animals and imaginary deities. They payed good respect to nature and the animals. They had their own poojas, ways of worship and celebrations which were partly different from Hinduism.
We continued trekking up. It was steep and mostly grassy with very few trees, reaching the top of Perumalmudy by 2 PM. The views from the top of Perumalmudy was splendid with dwarf hills in all directions overwhelmed with the lofty peaks of Vellingirimudi and Malleeshwaram mudi. We could see as far as the valley leading to Coimbatore and parts of Silent Valley National Park.
The road link from Coimbatore to Kerala via Attappady was also visible: and the towns Agli (Must have received this name from some Englishman who lived here who said this place looks ugly) and Goolikadavu. The series of windmills spanning across the horizon amidst the short plantains was also visible.
As the winds are strong in Attappadi during most of the time, with private partnershis, the Tamilnadu government invested in wind energy in the Tamilnad owned land of Attappadi. It is said that it helped the government to resolve the power shortage. Recent reports in media says that the land used to install the windmills were unethically: though legally confiscated from the tribes. The tribes have been living there for hundreds of years: they had their own government and policies, but never possessed any papers of ownership from the Indian Government.
By around 4 PM we started descending down along the opposite ridge, we moved aside an old tribal temple and reached a tribal village. We had a tea, watched the tribes for some time and returned to the lodge.
How to Reach Perumalmudy from Coimbatore
Perumalmudi is easily reachable from Coimbatore and is suitable for a week end biking trip from Coimbatore.
From Coimbatore, ride to Anaketty heading west of Coimbatore via Anaketty Road. Cross the town of Anaketty, which is the border between Kerala and Tamilnadu. Head further west for 20 Kilometers along the road to Silent Valley National park to reach the town of Goolikadavu.
View of sunset behind Malleeshwaram mudi seen from Perumalmudy was the most beautiful scene. The Silent Valley National Park lies to the North of Malleeshwatram Mudy.
From Goolikadavu proceed to Pettickal : 9 kilometers along a narrow road.This road has steep curves and ascents. Park the vehicles at Pettickal and start our trek to Perumalmudi. Alternatively there is a shorter route from Anaketty to Pettickal via Sholayur.