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Courtallam Falls, Kanyakumari Overview

A waterfall located in a region called the "Spa of South India". Does that paint a picture of a wonderful holiday attraction in your mind? That's because it is! Set in the midst of a Panchayat town in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, the Courtallam falls are renowned in the state for its enormity as well as ferocity. At an elevation of 160 metres (520 feet), the cascade towers above its green surroundings and magnificent hillside. This attraction is best suited for those looking to take a refreshing shower in the lap of nature. The Courtallam Falls are open to the public for rejuvenation while offering conveniences such as washrooms and food stalls in the vicinity. Photography enthusiasts may also find it worth their while to visit this majestic waterfall. And if you are a real nature buff, the mountains and glorious greenery should be enough to satisfy your soul as well.

The Courtallam Falls are a natural collection of small waterfalls that ultimately end up together at the base as a single, gigantic cascade. They are said to descend from several major rivers originating in the mountainous such as Chittar, Pachaiyar, and Maninuthar Rivers among many others. It is a common belief among the local folklore that the waters of Courtallam have medicinal properties that could cure a disability. The rocks behind the falls have been eroded to form uniquely shaped, honeycomb-like structures. There are also some Shivalingas (small idols of Lord Shiva) that can be found to be carved among the rocks in the locale.

A scene from the award-winning 1992 Hindi movie 'Roja' was filmed here, along with several other South Indian movies, and the waterfall has continued to grow in its popularity as a tourist attraction since then. Various facilities have been set up in the area for catering to travellers, including food stalls and commercial merchandise distinctive to the region. Overall, it makes for a colourful scene at this spot, with the waterfalls gently cascading in the background to produce a tranquil effect.

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The Courtallam Blend

Courtallam waterfall brings together nine different falls under its net as it reaches the ground, making it one of the biggest waterfalls to watch out for. The three primary falls, i.e. Main Falls, Old Courtallam Falls, and Five Falls are the only ones reachable by road. The rest either require a trek into the mountains or are restricted to the public for safety reasons. A brief description of the various falls is as follows:

Peraruvi Falls (Main Falls): This constitutes the most important falls, where the flow of water is slowed down by a 19-metre large crater "Pongumakadal" higher up in the mountain. The force of water gets reduced to a secure level, enabling people to safely take a bath under it

Pazhaya Courtalla Aruvi (Old Courtallam Falls): These were the original falls that would come from within the mountains and flow uninhibited into the valley. Later, some rocks were broken and restructured to collect the water into a large pool open to bathing for tourists. This was later torn down again to let the water flow unrestricted

Aintharuvi Falls (Five Falls): This cascade flows into the ground distributed across five tributaries, earning itself the name Five Falls

Chitraruvi Falls (Small Falls): As the name suggests, this is a small cascade acting as a subsidiary to the main falls.

Shenbagadevi Falls: This fall is named after the trees of Shenbaga (Michealia Champak) through which it flows. The Shenbagadevi Falls eventually flows into the Chitraruvi falls. Shenbagadevi is believed to be powerful Goddess, which is why there is also a temple erected to her name near the falls.

Thenaruvi Falls (Honey Falls): The Thenaruvi Falls are located at a distance of 3km from the Shenbagadevi Falls. It has an elevation of 40 metres and flows between two large stones. As per nature's bounties, there are big honeycombs in the vicinity that make it unsafe for tourists to engage in the nearby area.

Pazhathotta Aruvi Falls: This is an isolated waterfall that flows only in the upper reaches of the mountain but is nevertheless a part of the more extensive web of Courtallam Falls

Puli Aruvi (Tiger Falls): This is a decent fall with a moderate amount of water that collects into a lake at the bottom. The water from this lake is then distributed for irrigation purposes, while also serving as a source of water for wildlife in the neighbourhood. It is believed that tigers also come here for drinking water, and hence it was coined Tiger Falls.

A small cascade that runs into the Government Horticulture Park is also a part of Courtallam, but this one is inaccessible to the public.

Legend of Courtallam Falls

According to folklore, during the divine wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the historic event, due to which the renowned sage Agasthya could not get a clear sight of the marriage. He prayed to the Lord to allow him a view to which Shiva replied that He would grant the great sage a darshan (blessing) at Kutralam temple itself. However, the sage was denied entry to the temple by Dvarapalas (the Gateway deities), as the temple was an abode of Lord Vishnu and not Lord Shiva.

Determined to seek the Lord's blessings, the sage prayed with intense devotion, pressing the head of Vishnu's idol until it turned into a lingam, the ultimate form of Lord Shiva. It is said that he pressed the head so hard that Lord Shiva got a headache. The sage then prepared a mixture of cow milk, green coconut and an amalgam of 42 herbs. This soothed the headache and the Lord, pleased by the sage's devotion, made the place his abode and named it 'Kutralanathar'. The nearby falls were declared to be holy and named as Courtallam Falls. The head pressing tradition continues to exist in the Kutralanathar Temple even today.

Significance of Courtallam Falls

During the Tamil month of 'Aadi' (July-August), the Tirunelveli organises a state-wide religious festival known as Saral Vizha. Devotees from nearby towns and cities cleanse themselves in the waters of Courtallam before entering the holy abode of Papanasanathar Temple. Tourists are also known to take a dip before visiting the sacred pilgrimage site of Sabarimala Temple during the religious time of November to December. Many local competitions such as swimming and row boating are organised throughout the festive season, in addition to the operations of Tamil Nadu Tourist Development Corporation boating house which is kept open during season.

Best Time To Visit Courtallam Falls

Monsoons are the perfect time to visit a waterfall. Courtallam falls are at their peak beauty from June to September. In addition, the state of Tamil Nadu experiences a phenomenon called Northeast Monsoon, with heavy rains from October to December as well. However, while the waterfall may be beautiful to watch from a distance at this time, it is not accessible and may even be hazardous as the enormous volume of water often causes floods in the area.

Tips For Visiting Courtallam Falls

Take special care if visiting the waterfall during monsoon season, as the flow of water increases quite rapidly and may be hazardous for taking a dip.

How To Reach Courtallam Falls

Set at a distance of 125 km from Kanyakumari, the waterfall is a must-visit for a complete exploration of the region. The best mode of transport to reach the falls would be via car or bus. Buses are easily available from the nearby towns of Tenkasi and Shenkottai (each 5km from Courtallam Falls). The nearest railway station is at Tirunelveli, about 52km from the falls.

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