An enthusiastic group of 17 members, after being picked up from Tidel Park and Guindy circle, left from the last pick point Koyambedu at about 5.30a.m. on Sept 28, 2009. Took a breakfast break at Saravana Bhavan,Vellore and left for the foothills of Parvathamalai at around 8am. Parvathamalai as the name suggests is a hill standing tall at approximately 3500ft above sea level. The hill is located south-west to Chennai close to Thenmathimangalam village in Thiruvannamalai District, Tamil Nadu about 20Kms from Polur which in turn is 35Km from Thiruvannamalai. Kadaladi which is about 25Kms north of Thiruvannamalai, is another route to reach the base of the hill. Atop the hill is a Shiva temple apparently 2000 years old and an Ashram which is quite recently constructed. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Mallikarjunaswamy. One of the most popular theories attributed to the origin of Parvathamalai is that it was formed when a part of the Sanjeevini mountain that Lord Hanuman carried, fell down to form this existing hill. The hill is also popular for its medicinal plants. Devotees mentioned the hills hosts 119 varieties of medicinal herbs.
We chose the Thenmathimangalam route to begin our trek. We CTCians reached a temple very close to the foot hills at around 9.50am.. We began trekking from this point at 10a.m after filling our back packs with lunch, snacks and essential drinks. We got quite lucky with the weather. It was neither too hot nor raining. Rain was a matter of concern or most trekkers. The trek began from a check post close to another small Hanuman temple. By the check post, we saw a board put up by the Government of Tamilnadu welcoming devotees and also showing the route to the hill top. From here we started walking on a cemented road up to a Km until the beginning of the steps. There is a shelter at the start of ascend. Although the group started together, it slowly dispersed into smaller ones and some singles too owing to the fitness level of each one. About 10mins after we started the trek, we caught up with each other as we took a coconut water break while some chose to carry on without a break. After a nourishing natural drink we got back inching forward towards the top. The steps are well laid and well maintained. The steps route extended to only about 1/3rd of the entire distance. Although the existence of steps may sound like a boon, most of us felt trekking up the boulder path was far easier and quicker.
Some portion of the flight of steps was quite steep and strenuous. All along the steps route one gets to see numbers like 400, 1000, 900 with arrow marks pointing upwards although it was hard to guess whether they indicated the distance in meters or the number of steps left. Along this path we came across many kinds of insects and some monkeys curious to know what our bags contain! A little before getting to the boulder path, we stopped by a tea stall for a lemon soda break. Very refreshing and essential! Soon came the end of steps and start of natural trail! This path was nice and a little steeper. At least we were catching up with height faster. Along this route one gets to experience cooler breeze which is a soother. As we breathed deep, the difference in air was evident! The air out there smelt very fresh, raw and green. Some ardent devotees owe it to the medicinal trees and shrubs. Along this path we took rest at a couple of points to enjoy some beautiful hill views and clicked some pictures. We heard the hills running parallel to the Parvathamalai was Javvadhi hills. At some points we also could see patches of cultivated land offering different shades of green view. The last stop before the big steep risky ascent is famously identified as "Sarasamma kadai" - a tea shop! Generally people are expected to leave their footwear behind here as some devotees think its disrespectful to wear them any beyond. It also suited for some of us as the climb henceforth was easy to accomplish barefooted. We saw some devotees made it barefoot all the way!
Some devotees heading back from the hill top kept hinting us on the path and tasks that we were to encounter. The climb further was with the aid of different kind of steps. As we trekked up through some loose stones and pebbles, we came across a rocky path with some carved space for footing. The chains supported by metal rods on the sides were meant for support. It’s called 'Gadapaparaippadi' in Tamil. This helped us cover quite some height although quite steep and tough! And then came 'Thandavazhappadi' or the track steps resembling a rail track with some slim metal plates laid in between for preventing any slip. I tried gazing on the side as I crossed the track steps and I was scared to death!! And then came the carved rock path with metal rods, some in the shape of ‘Vel’, to hold and climb. Then came 'Agayappadi' or sky track. Like a metal carpet held by cross rods under. Soon we took some rest under a ‘mantap’ built out of big cut stones. This place was really cool! And gave us a much needed break before heading up to the last leg of steeper climbs. As we ascended we came across a combination of paths mentioned so far and also 'Yenippadi' or ladder steps and then a small narrow stone step path sandwiched between two huge rocks!
Soon we breathed a huge sigh of relief as we saw the Ashram building. One could either go to the Ashram first or the temple with just a few more steps up. Only a part of the group reached the top ahead of target time while the others reached much later. The ones who reached the top had almost decided that the others had given up mid-way! There is plenty of breeze one can embrace atop the hill. The summit also offers some breathtaking views. We sat near the temple to have lunch while some of us took lunch at the Ashram. Then relaxed for a bit before retracing the path downward. And that's when we were in for a big surprise! We saw the rest of the members had finally made it to the top!! The members who reached the top earlier decided to leave earlier as they did not want to be stuck in the rains. As we started climbing down the groups split again into ones and twos. Of this some of them chose to climb down through the Kadaladi route and some through the same path they came by. It drizzled for a couple of minutes after we started descending. Luckily not when we climbed down the different kinds of ladders! But later we heard that some members who started climbing down later did get stuck in the tough parts and did find it scary as the path got a bit slippery.
As we got down the hill, we observed some dilapidated structures of wall leading to something like watch platforms, like in a fort. We took a small deviation from the downward path and walked to the edge of one such raised platform and sat there to enjoy the spectacular view it had on offer! After a few minutes of enjoying the view got back to our climbing down. The climb down appeared tougher on the knees. We did take a few photo and tea breaks in between. The plastic cups, bottles, covers etc., thrown by the devotees, mostly in close proximity to the tea shops, was a picture of utter disregard devotees have for this pristine green hill. Really wish something could be done about it.The walk downward was slow and got slower for some of us although some of the members who choose the Kadaladi route had made pretty earlier. Slowly one by one members trickled back to the van by about 7.30pm. The group left for Chennai around the same time after a long, tiring, tough and most of all enchanting trek. We stopped by the Saravana Bhavan for dinner. And finally reached Tidel park around 1am and dispersed to our residences.Written by: Shanthala Subramanyam
Organized by: Ravi Alagappan
Posted by: Karthick Sundararajan