The breath-taking, bright blue bell-shaped flowers in Munnar are all set to bloom in the Western Ghats this monsoon. Not only a visual treat, the Neelakurinji bloom, is also a rare marvel that occurs once in 12 years in Munnar.
During its flowering season, the Neelakurinji carpets the whole of the mist-clad high ranges of Munnarin a swathe of blue and beckons everyone to view its sprawling splendour.
‘Neela’ means blue in Malayalam and ‘Kurinji’ is the local name of the flower. The botanical name of Neelakurinji is ‘Strobilanthes kunthianus’ and it grows at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 metres. 46 species of this flower are found in India, though there are around 250 of them world-wide and their blooming cycles vary from annual to 16-years.This fairylike phenomenon can be viewed in all its glory between July and October this year (2018). These spectacular flowers were last seen in 2006.
The Western Ghats forms the main habitat of the Neelakurinji. The hills surrounding Munnar with these endemic species is also an indicator of the health of the ecosystem. This symbol of bio-diversity may well be claimed as flagship species of these beautifulhills in Kerala.
The valleys of Munnar look unrecognizable covered in these majestic flowers during the Neelakurinji bloom. The hills of tea in Munnar turns into a major tourist attraction, thanks to the Neelakurinji.
The Kerala tourism department expects over 8 lakh visitorsin Munnarthis blooming season. A growth of 79 percent in tourist arrivals to Munnar in expected this year.To those bitten by the travel bug, Munnar is a must-see destination. The green carpets of tea, lush meadows, gushing waterfall and misty roads take you to a world that is sure to enthral anyone.
Where in Munnar can one see the Neelakurinji?
There are plenty of places in Munnar where one can witness Neelakurinjibloom in all its magnificence. The 2 top places accessible to tourists are – The Kurinjimala Sanctuary located at Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages of DevikulamTaluk in Munnar and the Eravikulam National Park in the Idukki district.
The Muthuvan tribe, the original inhabitants of Munnar, calculate their age in relation to the number of Neelakurinji blooms they have witnessed.
The Paliyans of Tamil Nadu also use the blossoming cycle of Neelakurinji flowers to calculate their age.
During the blooming season, honey bees collect nectar from the Neelakurinji flowers and this honey is believed to be tastier and more nutritious than the regular honey.
Not all flowers are blue, as the name suggests. Out of the 46 varieties of Neelakurinji found in India, a few are red and maroon in colour.
Even though the Neelakurinji bloom steals the show this year in Munnar, there are several other places that one must visit when in Munnar. A visit to the tea plantations, the Madupatty dam, Tea Museum, Madupatty Factory and a walk on the various verdant mountain trails will prove that this indeed is the God’s own country!Munnar is nothing less than a heaven if you are a tea lover! Check out the Places to visit in Munnar if you are a Tea lover!
Things to remember when you visit
-Do not forget to carry jackets, umbrellas and sweaters, for this time of the year is bound to be rainy as well as cold in Munnar.
-Rain also brings with it leeches. They love to latch on to your legs and they are found in plenty in the hills of Munnar during the monsoons. Ensure that you are covered properly. Another lesser known remedy used by the residents of Munnar is generously spreading Dettol over exposed parts of the legs. In case you have been stung and need the leech to leave its grip on your body, put some salt.
-Munnar is filled with wildlife so please do not carry plastic to Munnar. Plastic lying about would befatal for the wildlife.
-You are entering a beautiful land, take only memories and photographs back with you. Remember that the Neelakurinji will not survive in all places. Do not pluck the flowers as souvenirs.
-If a majestic wild elephant decides to honour you with a visit, do not be scared. Just wait until it leaves or moves towards the side of the road. Excessive honking and bright lights can irritate the animal and may cause harm to people and vehicles. Ask locals for help.
We, at Ripple Tea,try to do our bit in preserving this land entrusted to us by the pioneer tea planters. We have been running various campaigns to educate thelocals as well as the tourists about the Neelakurinji and the importance of conserving Munnar. Do take a look at some of our initiatives here.
If you miss the Neelakurinji bloom this year then you will have to wait until 2030. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags now!
See you in Munnar!