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Agasthya Mala and its Peak
This is a mountain range found in the southern part of Indian peninsula. It is part of the Western Ghat mountain range. Its peak is called Agasthyakoodam. This 1.868-meter tall peak falls within Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats of South India. The peak is also part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve that lies in the southern part of the two states – Kerala and Tamil Nadu. A river by the name Thamirabarani is originating from the eastern side of this mountain and flows to the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. This is a perennial river. Neyyar and Karamana rivers flow towards the western side to the Arabian sea after originating from the mountain range. These rivers flow through the plains of Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala before draining into the sea. Since there is nothing to support the tourists, they have to travel back to the base camps before dusk. Hence, they have to plan their travelogue in such a manner that they don't get stranded after the nightfall.
The peak is considered to be the holy abode of the saint Agasthyar. He is credited with the advent of Tamil language. His name can be found in the sacred texts such as Hindu Puranas. Hence, people from all walks of life pay a visit to this place seeking blessings of this Hindu seer. In recognition of the religious importance, people have installed the life-size statue of the Hindu saint on the top of this peak. The devotees come and offer floral tributes to this idol at a particular time of the year that coincides with the birth centenary of the sage. The people of the region believe that the prominent Dravidian language Tamil was developed by this sage. Hence, many Tamil literature has reference to this sage, which include the famous Sangam age literature.
On the western side of this mountain range, two major rivers originate and flow through the Thiruvananthapuram district. They are Karamana and Neyyar rivers. The former is the major source of drinking water for Thiruvananthapuram city. It has a trekking path of nearly 35 kilometres. This trekking path can be accessed from Bonocaud. It is nearer to Neyyar Dam and Ponmudi. The place Bonacaud is in the vicinity of hill station Ponmudi. The mountain range also houses the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. One can see part of the peak Agasthyakoodam from the Upper Kodayar region. There are a number of waterfalls within the Biosphere reserve. To reach many of them, one need to trek through difficult terrains with caution. There are tourists guides who lead the people to different waterfalls and other salient features of this reserve. People who visit these waterfalls swear that they get a totally different and refreshing experience when they go near them.
Flora and Fauna
The lower part of the peak is known for the presence of rare herbs and medicinal plants. They are found in abundance in this region. According to Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), around 2000 medicinal plants used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine preparations can be found here. In places like Bonacaud, Brimore and Ponmudi, the visitors can see tea plantations. The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve harbours some of the rare flora and fauna found in this region.
The adventure-seeking tourists can avail the trekking facility only after getting the permission from the Kerala Forest Department. The permission for trekking is given only during January and February season every year. Another important fact is that the Agasthyakoodam peak can be reached only by means of trekking from the side of Bonacaud. For trekking, the visitors need to follow the strict guidelines issued by the Kerala Forest Department. People who go for trekking avail the base camps at Athirumala, Bonacaud, Birimore and Ponmudi. The route Neyyar-Agasthyakoodam is not open for the public as per the Kerala Forest Department guidelines. This route is prone to the land- and mudslides during the rainy season of the region. People are advised to take precautions before undertaking the trekking to the important destinations in this bio reserve as nothing is available in their vicinity.