My obsession with Velliyangiri Mountains started some 3 years back when I started hearing/reading about this mountain. The trip never materialized and it evaded me for quite some time until Shankar picked up this idea all of a sudden and called me if I am up to it. I latched on to the idea and said “Game ON”.
My cousins (3 of them – Shankar, Vignesh, and Arun) are based out from Coimbatore, closeby to the mountains and 1 of them (Vignesh) have been to this mountain before. So I pretty much do not have to worry about the logistics/planning.
On a perfect early Saturday morning, I boarded a private bus from the ever-busy Silk Board Bus stop from Bangalore and reached Coimbatore by Saturday afternoon around 12 PM. The National Highway (NH48) is a belter which made the 6-hour journey nice and comfortable. Coimbatore disappointed me being super hot and Shankar picked me up from the Gandhipuram bus stand and we went straight to my cousins home before gulping some tender coconut water and a couple of glasses of cold buttermilk. It is a general custom in most parts of Tamilnadu that people provide buttermilk/water for the needy people in the scorching summer heat.
One thing I admire in India is the hospitability that the hosts extend to their guests. In my cousin’s home, they were waiting for my arrival without eating and I was extended a warm welcome, provided an amazing south Indian food and had a good chat until evening to start our journey. In fact, I was treated like their own son which gave me many life lessons making me ponder that sometimes I am chasing the wrong priorities all my life.
After a sumptuous lunch and playing with Papa (I guess Labrador!!!) we then took two bikes and 4 of them totally started from Sundapalayam, Coimbatore to Poondi Temple (Foothills of Velliyangiri Mountain) where the trek starts. The journey was pleasant with farmlands and soothing climate with signboards warning of wild Elephants. The journey goes through Isha Foundation (a popular tourist destination now brimming with foreigners, thanks to the yoga cult that the western world adopted). NO, Not that Wild Wild Country thing!!!!
I had been to Isha Yoga Center before and hence I skipped visiting the same. If you are planning, I would strongly suggest you to first visit Isha Yoga Center sometime in the evening and have a dip in the swimming pool there and then head towards the Poondi Velliyangiri Andavar Temple (which is 2 KM from there) after visiting the Adiyogi Statue (112 Feet Statue).
Velliyangiri Mountains, for most of the people, is a spiritual trek and is revered as one of the holiest mountains in Hinduism dedicated to Lord Shiva (The Destroyer). Shiva is regarded as one of the supreme beings in Hinduism who creates, protects and transforms the universe.
I will leave it to your judgment on whether you would want to trek this place for your spiritual fulfillment (or) for its sheer beauty, but I would suggest in either case, this place is a must-go and an off-beat and one of the challenging trekking places in Tamil Nadu.
On the top of the mountain is a cave where a natural rock formation of a Shiva Linga (aniconic representation of Lord Shiva) gracing the cave. There are other deities sculpted inside the cave with locals administrating the cave with daily Hindu temple rituals happening throughout the day.
To reach the cave at the top, we would have to technically traverse through seven mountains and the cave is located at an elevation of 1778m (5833 ft) above sea level.
Most of the devotees trek barefoot, but we are also allowed to trek with shoes. One Caveat is women aged above 10 and below 45 are not allowed to trek this hill due to the religious sentiments. The trek is open every year starting February till May end and we can trek both day/night anytime 24 hours a day. I would strongly suggest starting climbing in the evening after 5 PM IST or at night as this place can get extremely hot and dry in the summer.
This hill has historical and mythological significance and there is a story associated with this hill which is quite interesting for history buffs. For Geography Buffs, feel free to skip this section ??
History says that there was a young woman (incarnation of Lord Parvati) who was madly in love with Lord Shiva himself. She wanted to marry Lord Shiva himself and took an oath that she will die standing in penance if Shiva did not come within the mentioned timeframe before sunrise to tie the wedding knot.
On hearing this, Lord Shiva was mightly pleased and started descending from his holy abode of Mount Kailash (now in Tibet) and started his dart towards the South of India. The other gods, who realized that he might not return if he is married to this woman conspired and created a false sunrise (by lighting huge mounds of camphor) one day before the provided deadline.
Shiva who was just 22 Kilometers away (from where the maiden was — which is today called as Kanyakumari, the tip of South India) started walking back dishearted. Being morose with the feeling of guilt and dejection, it is said that he scaled this mountain in solitary and he sat here in a certain kind of despondency and anger about himself.
The maiden then left her body standing and there stands a shrine dedicated to this maiden at the southern tip of India for her absolute sacrifice, which is also an important tourist destination in India.
Since Shiva himself graced this mountain, this place is called as “Thenkailayam/South Kailash” and is revered by many.
Trek starts at Poondi Velliyangiri Andavar temple where Annadanam (Free Food) is served round the clock by devotees/volunteers. A bamboo stick is available in the base of the temple for a nominal fee (? 30 INR) and I would suggest buying one as this helps downhill unequivocally.
At the entrance, there is a forest officer check post where plastics are checked. They ask all the devotees/trekkers to transfer the items and hence we would suggest you to avoid getting plastics in the first place. Try avoiding plastic mineral water bottles and load yourself with a good water bottle and load them with lots of water with Glucose. (you would thank me later!!).
As said earlier, this trek is a daunting ask for someone with an as sedentary lifestyle as mine and hence you can take cue with my experience in crossing the 7 exciting undulations to reach the summit.
First Hill is probably the toughest and is an energy-sapper. The first hill is full of steps, but steep ones. It takes out all your confidence and was it not been a temple, I would have cussed and foul-mouthed all day long. I still did, but it was all inside my head. I was telling our guys to keep going and not wait for me as I thought I would not make it. For a seasoned guy, the first hill takes close to 45 minutes, but it took more than an hour for us as we took frequent breaks.
We trekked on a no-moon day and started around 21:00 hours, but to our surprise, it was a serpentine queue. Right throughout the trek, there were mobile phones all around which acted as a source of light in the night hours. I never expected this crowd and was displeased as there were close to 2000 people scaling this mountain at night.
Pat yourself when you reach out to a place called “Vella Vinayagar Kovil”/ “White Ganesh Temple”, as this is technically the first hill that you had summited. There are shops selling soft drinks and beverages like Dry Ginger Tea, Lemon Juice, Butter Milk and other refreshments at the end of the first hill near the temple. Get yourself re-hydrated and let’s start the second one.
I assure you will get a mixed feeling of satisfaction and anxiety peeping in when you know that the first hill is completed and knowing that there are technically 6 more hills to complete.
You are on the second hill when you realize that the steps started to decrease and it will be a combination of steps and plains. It is comparatively easier than the first guy. However, there is a place called “Vazhuku Parai”/”Slippery Rock” where the small steps are carved in a rock. You have to be cognizant during this phase. Head further and at this point, I have started feeling better and my body started responding better for this trek.
End of Second Hill is when we reach “Pambaati Siddhar”/”Snake Charmer” cave. This is where “Paambati Siddhar” is said to have meditated as there is also a freshwater stream nearby.
Historically, “Siddhas” refers to the people who were early age wandering adepts that dominated ancient Tamil teaching and philosophy. They were knowledgeable in medicine, science, technology, astronomy, literature, fine arts, music, drama, dance and has documented all their learnings as poems/hymns. They are believed to be capable of defying death by attaining Siddhi and believed to be living in these mountains at a higher level of consciousness in a meditated state.
The third Hill is relatively easy as well and the route is interlaced with tree roots and hard rocks. We can understand that the third hill is completed when we reach “Kai Thatti Sunai”/”Clapping Hands Stream”. Mythology states that this stream’s force increases when one claps their hands, but I will leave it to your imaginations to visit and check that out.
It takes 60-70 minutes to complete the 2nd and 3rd hill together. We lazy bum’s rested in more than one place between the trek, we just rested more often than required and ended up taking close to 3 hours to complete these 3 hills.
The landscape of the mountain changes quickly after the 3rd hill and the lush deciduous thick canopy of forests changes to “Shola” grasslands. Fourth and Fifth hill turned out to be fun and chill as it was all plains. The weather started getting cold and I was enjoying this part of the trek.
There were some shops here as well and we had a nice “Herbal Soup” and “Parutthi Pal”/”Cotton Seeds Milk”. It took another 45 minutes to 60 minutes to complete this 4th and 5th hill if you trek without any stops.
Some people refer 4th hill as “Vibuthi Malai/Limestone Hill” and en route, we can find “Siddhar Ottar Samadhi/Ottar’s Place” which refers to a state of meditative consciousness At the end of the 5th hill, you can find “Bheeman Kali Urundai/Bheema’s Handful of Food”). Bheema’s Handful of Food is a unique rock in the shape of a huge ball which stands without any support at the end of the 5th mountain.
These names are quite intriguing and interesting providing wide reference to the legendary tale of Mahabharata.
Sixth Hill was a teaser to what awaits in the seventh mountain. All your romantic hillside strolls come to an end. We have to get downhill which is a steep one and then climb up.
This phase is called “Naalu Kaal Malai/Four-Legged Mountain”, where we literally have to sit and crawl with both your hands and legs to get down and hence the name. You can find this place with makeover bamboo shafts and at the end of the 6th hill, we can find “Aandi Sunai/Aandi Stream and “Brahma Theertham/Brahma Pond”. The sixth hill is relatively tough and it would take 45-60 minutes to complete this hill.
I strongly recommend you to have a dip at this pond and I assure you that this one would be a classic. You will feel energized after this dip and the aura would be unmatching. You would feel positive and all that stress and negative things that we had accumulated over the years dissipates as soon as we have a dip.
Don’t feel threatened looking at the 07th hill and this is a final push and the scariest one. This one is damn steep, but at first sight, it would look as if the temple is reachable. It would turn out to be an eternal climb and would frustrate you till the last moment. Make sure you have plenty of Glucose/Water with you as will find this hill tough.
We took a lot of rests in the 07th hill and gulped glucose in each halt. After a strenuous 60-70 minutes of trekking, we reached the summit where a huge natural cave which in itself a temple was in our sight.
It was an overall enjoyable and exhausting uphill journey where it took 7 hours for us to reach the summit. We started at 21:00 PM and reached the cave at 03:15 AM. It will not take this long for others and typically for an experienced trekker, it should not take more than 6 hours. Since we were tired and we also rested midway and were immersed in our life discussions, we almost took a break close to 90+ minutes overall and that increased our overall timings.
At the top of the hill, we were welcomed by strong gusty howling winds which were both magical and scary. The view was mesmerizing and the place was mystical but could definitely find some good vibes around. Being an ardent Shiva admirer and a mountain enthusiast, this place was perfectly laced for me to let my crazy soul unwind. Once again, I felt peace with myself, as with every mountain summits I reach.
Since it was a no-moon day and there were so many people around, we had no choice but to climb down fast and reach the base before 10 AM. Otherwise, things can get pretty messy with the summer heat waiting to dehydrate and burn your feet if you are walking barefoot.
If you think that getting down would be a cakewalk compared to walking uphill, think twice. Downhill can get very tricky and more dangerous and if you make one little mistake, you probably can reach downhill must faster, but definitely not alive!!!. This is where you will appreciate the bamboo stick that you bought at the foothills.
We started downhill at 04:00 AM IST and it took another solid 5 hours to reach the foothills.
My downhill experience was mostly playing “High Jump”. I imagined myself being a fisherman, sticking the bamboo stick on each rock and after making sure it is fixed, propelling myself getting down with that support. Each step I took downhill was a jolt to my back and knees and I could hear my legs shouting at me indiscriminately to have a break.
Sipping “Sukku Malli Kaapi/Dry Ginger and Coriander Tea” in the morning wee hours was an absolute bliss which will echo in my mind whenever Velliyangiri comes to my mind.
At the same time, it was magical when we came downhill, as we were able to see the magical sunrise, Bheeman Rice ball, Siruvani Dam, Isha Adiyogi Statue (112 Feet high) which was hiding in the pitch dark when we were climbing uphill.
After reaching downhill, we were again offered Annadanam/Free Food which we gleefully accepted and headed straight to my relation’s home to heal my punctured legs ??
With lots of good memories and profound satisfaction, I guided my way back to Bangalore with these memories unwilling to fade away even in the mundane life ahead.
How do you Get There:
Coimbatore is the nearest city and is well connected by air, rail, and road. From Coimbatore, there are public buses and share autos plying to Iskcon Yoga Center and also to Poondi temple.
By car, you can directly reach the below location:
Things to Remember:
- Water Bottles. (Although there are natural spring waters in the 2nd,3th, and 06th hill, it is wise to carry the water bottles with water, as the streams cannot be reliable in the summers).
- Sleeping Bag/Tent.
- Glucose/Chocolates/Energy Bars.
- Raincoat (only if you are trekking in the rainy season).
- There are no accommodations both at the foothills/at the top of the mountain. However, there are very good accommodations near Isha Yoga Center and in Coimbatore.
Always remember to travel light.
Feel free to throw in your comments and your feedback and I would love to hear from your experiences as well if you have been here.
I would also love to help if you need any help setting up this tour and make this a memorable experience. See you next time and until then Ciao ??