Agastya Mala

FLICKR: @ Bijukumar KN
FLICKR: @ Bijukumar KN

Agasthya Mala is also known as Agasthyarkoodam and is situated about 70 km from Thiruvananthapuram, capital city of Kerala State in India. The peak is the second highest peak based at a height of 1,868 meters (6129 feet) above mean sea level, within Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Sahyadri ranges (Western Ghats) of South India.

Agasthyarkoodam peak appears to be a sharp cone and is referred as a heaven of rare herbs and medicinal plants. ‘Arogyapacha’ (Plant of eternal health) a rare and beneficial herb is captivating the interest of modern researchers to this place. More than 2,000 medicinal plants used in Ayurvedic treatments are found here. British were the first to establish tea gardens around the base stations of the mountain at Brimore, Bonacaud, and Ponmudi.

The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve docks rare flora and fauna. Women are not allowed up the peak and permission is required from the forest department of Kerala to trek. Annual trekking passes to the peak are published during January – mid March only.

The trek to the peak requires two days, 28 km long from Bonacaud, Day 1 covers 20 km through the forest to the camp, while Day 2 includes 8 km long trek from the camp to the top of Agasthyarkoodam peak. Vehicles are allowed only till Bonacaud which is about 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram. Elephants and wild bulls are found in abundance in this region.

The perennial river Thamiarabarni originates from the eastern sides of Agasthyarkoodam, which flows in Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. A wild life sanctuary named Peppara is based in the Agasthyarkoodam forests of the Thiruvananthapuram district.

In 1984, the Peppara Dam was built across the river Karamana, with the sole purpose to affect the water supply to the Thiruvananthapuram city and suburban areas. Agasthyarkoodam is a pilgrimage center for the Hindus as well as the Buddhists, the Hindus believe that this mountain is the home of Sage ‘Agastya’; transitelerated as Agathiar or Agastyar. Agastya is considered to be one of the seven ‘Rishis’ (Saptarshi) of Hindu ‘Puranas’. Buddhists think that Agastya Mountain is the abode of Bodhisatva Avalokiteswara.

Nearest railway station: Ambasamudram, Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu. The trekking path, nearly 35 km, is from Bonacaud.

Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, around 69 km from Bonacaud.

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