Kutralam was one of the places we had been craving to visit. This was possible only after my retirement and in 2003 July. We booked ourselves a room in Tamilnadu Tourism`s hotel in Kutralam – Hotel Tamilnadu.
Kutralam, the ‘Spa of the south’, is a panchayat town situated at an elevation of about 167 m on the Western Ghats in Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu, India. Numerous rivers such as the Chittar River, the Manimuthar River, the Pachaiyar River and the Tambaraparani River originate here. It is famous for its waterfalls and has a number of health resorts.The falls are located 160 kilometers from Madurai and 59 kilometers from Tirunelveli. The nearest railway station is Tenkasi ( where we alighted) which is just 6 Kms from here.
This is not only a tourist spot but also a health resort. Kutralam water has medicinal properties since the water runs through forests of herbs and the water has therapeutic qualities to cure physical ailments. During the season (period June to September in every year) thousands of tourists from far and near visit this place. The waters of the falls are believed to have medicinal properties as they run through forests of herbs before their descent. Tourists who visit and bathe in the waters claim that the water has a soothing effect, help the old feel young and the sick heal rapidly. The peak season for visitors is June-September.
This place is chill and has a superb climate with sizzling of rain drops over us removes the stresses in our mind. The Pure wind that starts from pothigai malai removes the tiredness from our body. It is said that Lord Siva sent saint Agastheya to the south to avoid imbalance due to overcrowding in the mount Kailas on his celestial wedding. The saint came to Podhigai hills for his stay.
There are nine falls
Among all these waterfalls, Five Falls is very good since it is less-crowded than the main falls, and will be more pleasant than any other falls.
When one thinks of Kutralam, the natural thought is that of luxuriant waterfalls. However, Kutralam offers more to the religiously minded. There is a temple of Thirukutralanathar or Kurumpalaveesar. The Lord here is an aspect of Siva. Thirukutralanathar means lord of the three peaks. The deity is believed to have been installed by sage Agastyar and the temple was built somewhere in the eighth century. Agastyar is said to have shrunk the image of Vishnu and then created the Siva linga here.
Traditionally, a temple is supposed to have one of the five shapes: discus, tortoise, square, lotus and circle. However, this temple is in the shape of a conch, signifying Vishnu. Hence, it is also known as the Sangu shrine. In the eastern side is the main deity with His consort Kuzhalvaaimozhiammai. There is a hall in the temple by name Thirukoota mandapa. In this hall various decorations to deities during festivals are conducted. Among other deities are Vinayaka, Subramanya and Iyyanar.
There are also deities for the five elements: Vanmikanathar for the earth, Jambukeswarar for water, Annamalainadhar for fire, Kalathiappar for air and Thirumulanathar for sky.
The northern entrance has eighteen steps guarded by Kutrala Karuppan. Lord Nataraja is said to have danced in five holy places and Kutralam is one of them.
The Chitra Sabhai or the hall of pictures is in a picturesque locale away from the main temple. Architecturally, the Chitra Sabhai resembles that of the other Nataraja sabhas elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, and its interior is decked with hundreds of murals, depicting images from the Indian epics. It is an excellent house of art and architecture. Natarajar is decorated and brought here during festivals from the main temple. This temple contains many inscriptions about Chola and Pandya Kings
Thiru murugan temple is situated here in Thirumalai. The beautiful Lord Muruga Temple is situated on the top of a hillock 15 kms from Kutrallam. Sage Agasthiyar used to worship Muruga every day here. Also the saptha kannigaigal. The presiding deity is called Kumaraswamy.
Papanasam Dam is located 49 Kms away from Tirunelveli. This is a beautiful picnic spot. Another dam in Tirunelveli District is Manimuthar Dam. This is 47 Kms from Tirunelveli. Having salubrious climate and gorgeous gardens, it serves as an excursion centre.
Pana Theertham is around 55 km west of Tirunelveli. Ambasamudram Railway Station is the nearest railhead. The River Tambraparani commences its course from this point. It is located just opposite the upper dam. One can reach this spot, crossing the dam by boat when the dam is full. During the festival days domestic tourists around Papanasam visit this place
Papanasam is a small village. It is 60kms from Tirunelveli from where buses ply to Papanasam. The river Tamiraparani flowing from the Western Ghats reaches the plains at Papanasam. While flowing down the rocky bed it forms into many falls. The agasthiyar falls being the popular one. This waterfall is believed to absolve all sins from people who bath in it.
This has made Papanasam (papa+vinasam, meaning absolution of sins) an important pilgrim centre. Fishes are found in abundance in the water. They are quite harmless and approach the bathers in large numbers. The devotees believe that these fishes are redeemed souls and harming them would bring retribution
This temple adjoining the falls named Agasthiyar falls is located half way to the Panatheertham, which is at a distance of 4 km from Papanasam Shiva Temple. One can reach these Agasthiyar Falls and the Temple by trekking a distance of 3 km. Regular buses are available to visit these temples.
The Agasthiyar temple seems to cling to the rocky mountain above the falls. As already told, the legend is that when Lord Shiva married Parvati, he was concerned that the rush of people from the south attending the marriage in the north might result in the northern part sinking, and so he sent Sage Agastya to the south, to this region, in order to balance the world. The waters that nourish the falls flow through forests filled with medicinal herbs and so are believed to have healing powers.
This is a holy pool located at an elevation of 125 feet on the Agasthiyar falls and it gets its water flow from this pool only. This is called Kalyanatheertham. Near the pool, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It is knows for its beautiful Korai mats. This is also the birth place of Swami Sivananda, the Saint and Philosopher. We got Pai for Prabha`s wedding here