Agasthyamalai Hills, Western Ghats, South India

The Agasthyamalai Hills also known as Ashambu Hills, is located at the southern most point of the Western Ghats mountain range occupied in western end of South India. The hill is extended about 1,600 meters,  with about 26 peeks. The hill serves as the home for more than 2,000 species of herbal plants and most of it is of medicinal value. This hill is of great aesthetic beauty as well as cultural importance. The founder of Siddhar practitioners of Rasayana Ayurveda medicine, the Vedic sage Agasthya was considered to be a resident in the hills. The hills consists of a few number of ecosystems and also flourishing flora and fauna. The hills comprises of excellent ecosystems containing plants and animals that represents the ecoligical as well as biological processes.

The Agasthya hills is located between the boarders of the district Thiruvananthapuram and district Kollam in the state of Kerala and the districts of Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The boarder occupying both these states consists a high ridge, which moves from north to south,  and then later parallel to the east at about 40 kilometers to the shore of Arabian Sea.

The Agastyamalai is the residence of Kanikkaran tribe, which is noted to be one of the ancient hunter gatherer who have survived in this world. The hills is comprised with 500 meters of wet deciduous forest of the South Western Ghats and 1,000 meters of the montage rain forest of South Western Ghats. The hills constitute of 2,000 species of medicinal plants of which, about 50 of them are endangered. There are wild varieties of jack fruits, cardamon, mangoes, bananas and also turmeric. The wide varieties of fauna in this hills include lion tailed macaques, guar, Indian elephants,  Bengal tiger, tahr, sloath, spiny dormouse, and marten. There are also a wide variety of reptiles like king cobra and rare birds like pied horn-bills. The Agastyamalai hills is a famous Eco-tourism spot.

The eastern part of the hills facing Tamil Nadu is occupied by Kalakkad Mundathurai Tiger Reserve,  which covers about 895 square kilometers of protected area. The part of the hills facing the state of Kerala is occupied by Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers 128 kilometers square along with Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary covering 53 square kilometers and Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary occupying 171 kilometers.The Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve is surrounded by the grey jungle, also known as the Naraikadu Forest, which is owned Dhonavur Fellowship. This  fellowship has protected this forest with so much effort in the best way possible, and it ended up becoming one of the best maintained forest in the whole hills.

The Agasthyamal Hills consists of protected areas like the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve, which covers 3,500 kilometer square from which about, 1, 828 kilometers square is in Kerala and 1, 672 kilometers square is in Tamil Nadu. The Agastyamalai Biosphere Reserve, and the whole Agastyamalai Sub cluster based in the Western Ghatsthats is being considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Community as a world heritage site.

The main tourist attractions of the are the Hindu temples and the seasonal waterfalls in the hills. The famous Suruli Waterfalls in the hills comprises of two cascading waterfalls for which the water is supplied by the Suruli River. These waterfalls are noted to be originating from the Meghamalai Hills. The waterfall initially descends from a height of 46 meter into the water collected pool and then flows through for a short distance in order to jump from another height of 12 meter. About 18 caves are located near these waterfalls and represents the rock cut architecture temples of the Indian civilization in the 18th century. This is a famous tourist destination as well as a pilgrimage’s place.

In the topmost peak of the hill, is the Agastyamurti, and crores of pilgrims climbs the Agastyamalai every year in order to conduct ceremony on the murti, which is well known as apuja ceremony. The pilgrims travel to the murti through the Kerala part of the hills through the Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary. At the same time the tourists are allowed to trek through the area via the Bonaccord estate located in the district of Thiruvananthapuram,  with the help of the government guide which will be provided by the forest department. The government provide camp facility to the tourists to spent their night in the middle of the jungle. Almost 700 tourists arrive this place in the month January- February.