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India: Tamil Nadu: Coonoor, Mahabalipuram, Ooty, Srirangam [Tiruchirapalli], Thanjavur, Yercaud
Yercaud, Tamil Nadu, India: Coffee at Lake Forest
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Yercaud is a quaint hill station near Salem in Southern India. It is located in the Servarayan Range (the English called it Shevaroys) in the Western Ghats at an altitude of about 1500 meters. The town gets its name from coining two words from the Tamil language – Yeri for Lake; and Kaadu for Forest. The hills are well known for their coffee plantations and orange groves.
I was in Coimbatore for business. I added a few extra days to explore the charms of Yercaud and Ooty. We were two couples. We had a car at our disposal which made things pretty easy. Generally speaking, the roads in Tamil Nadu were pretty good, save for a stretch on the highway which was being made.
We left Coimbatore at 5PM and reached Yercaud at 9PM. National Highway 47 took us through the textile and garments town of Tirupur and Salem - the gateway town at the foothills of Yercaud.
We were booked at Lake Forest hotel part of which has been leased out to Mahindra Holidays. The hotel is an eco-friendly property which was once the residence of Henrietta Charlotte Rosar, one of the first British to settle in Yercaud. She made her fortunes from the coffee nurseries she commercialized from Brazil. The hotel rooms are spread out throughout the estate at different levels. Be prepared to do a little trek to reach the reception and the dining room.
Like all hill stations, Yercaud has also developed a few points of interests… all within a few kilometers from our hotel. In the two days that we were there, we covered most of the points at our leisure. The Kiliyur Waterfall is the most famous location, but that needs to be explored immediately after the monsoon. The waterfall is active when the Yercaud Lake overflows. Sadly, we were there prior to the monsoon, hence it made sense to avoid the 3 km trip and 500 meters of trek.
On the first morning, after breakfast, we visited The Raja Rajeshwari Temple and The Maha Meru Chakra Temple (claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world). It was a 7 km return journey.
Raja Rajeshwari is the Goddess of all Gods in the Hindu Pantheon and by praying to her one can attain wealth and prosperity and be elevated to higher levels of spirituality.
The Maha Meru is the three-dimensional form of the Sri Chakra, the cosmic symbol of the Divine Feminine Archetype. This figure represents all of the secrets and mysteries of the universe. The conical shape of this Maha Meru resembles a pyramid with 9 subdivisions or phases called “Nava Avarnam”. The top most point is called “Bindu” where Goddess Shakti abides along with her consort Lord Shiva - the ultimate union of cause and effect. It is said that the progression up the ‘steps’ or phases represents the stages towards enlightenment. The Meru is the concentrated form of a million Goddesses’ energy in one sacred form, which transmits energies for prosperity and good fortune.
For lunch we drove to the restaurant at Hotel Salem Point. The hotel has a glass sky-walk, which offers excellent view of the valley and the Salem town.
That evening we walked from our hotel to Yercaud Lake and the Boat House making it a point to sample some chilli fritters – a local roadside favourite. The good 3-km walk built our appetite for dinner, which was to be at our hotel. I must mention that the owner of the hotel Steve Borgia is an avid collector of artifacts from the era bygone. The hotel has on display some of his collections.
The next morning we visited Servarayan Temple, the Botanic Garden and the Pagoda Point. The total journey was about 25 kms.
Servarayan Temple is situated on top of Servarayan Hill – the highest point of the range. The temple itself is a narrow cave and seated inside are the God Servarayan and the Goddess Kaveri representing the Servarayan Hills and the Kaveri River. Locals believe that the God Servarayan is the guardian angel of the 67 villages in and around Yercaud. Local tribes celebrate their annual festival during May every year.
The botanic garden was in a sad state. The maintenance was pathetic. If this is how it is at all times a visit can be best avoided.
Pagoda point or pyramid point is a viewpoint located on the eastern part of Yercaud hills. This has four piles of stones arranged so as to form a pyramid shape. It is said to be built by the local tribes and now there is a Rama temple located between the piles of stones. One can get a thorough view of the town of Salem and a little village called Kakambadi from this hill.
For lunch we drove uphill to Grand Hotel. The food and service was quite impressive.
That evening, we drove to a cluster of points named Ladies Seat, Gents Seat and Childs Seat. I am still not sure why these names but they do offer some great views of the valley, the winding hill road and Salem town. These points are within walking distance of each other.
After spending some time up there, we drove down to the lake. We hired a row boat and enjoyed a serene 15-minute boat ride.
Next morning, we will leave Yercaud and drive to Ooty – one of India’s famous hill stations.
Yercaud Image Gallery Photo viewer
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