Celebrations start at Kuttalam in Tamil Nadu when the monsoon arrives in Kerala. It is then the several waterfalls in the area come alive and start attracting travellers. For the next six months, it will be the tourist season at Kuttalam in Tirunelveli district.
The place will be a crowded with people eager to drench themselves under the waters from the falls. Compared to the waterfalls in Kerala, the falls here are ‘gentle’ in nature and there is no danger in taking a shower directly beneath the plunging water. However, leaving nothing to chance, the authorities have set in place stringent safety measures. Even women police officials camp at the spot to help tourists.
Though located in Tamil Nadu, Kuttalam is easily accessible from Kerala, especially in the border areas. It also offers a good option for an enjoyable trip during the monsoon. For residents of Pathanamthitta, a tour to Kuttalam is just a short picnic, of less than 100 km.
There are mainly nine waterfalls at Kuttalam. In addition, there are numerous tiny streams, adding to the beauty of the place. Among them, two waterfalls, Peraruvi and Ayntharuvi, attract the most number of visitors. All the other falls can be reached within a distance of 1 km. They include Puliyaruvi, from where tigers are believed to take a sip, Pazhayaruvi, Thenaruvi, Chembakadevi waterfall, Chithira Aruvi, Puthu Aruvi and Pazhattotta Aruvi. Waters of all these falls have medicinal properties, according to local belief.
Bus services have also been started from nearby towns of Sengottai and Tenkasi for the benefit of travellers.
Peraruvi (Main falls)
This is the biggest fall, as well as the most popular. The water tumbles down from a height of about 60 m, but in three ‘steps’ along the way, minimising the impact. Moreover, high up, before taking the plunge as Peraruvi, the river’s pace is slackened by several huge depressions and potholes on the river bed. It is, in fact, the water overflowing from these potholes that comes down gently as Peraruvi.
Bathers find the cool waters refreshing; there are separate areas for women and men. A fence has been installed for safety. The police outpost is also at hand. Arrangements are in place for visitors to change as well as buy towels. However, soap and shampoo are banned as the water that flows down the bathing area is used for drinking purposes by many local people.
Another attraction are the two parks near the entrance where children can spend some time and the others relax. Entry to one park is free while there is a fee at the other. There are some massage parlours too.
The Thirukuttalanatha Temple here draws devotees from many places. Shops selling fancy items and eatables surround the temple.
Ayntharuvi (Five falls)
Here, the water makes a plunge in five separate streams. It is the most attractive of all the falls in Kuttalam. Two main falls each on the left and right are meant for men and women. The one in the middle is gentle and caters to children. It too divides into two while falling – one for girls and the other for boys.
Safety arrangements have been put in place here also. Adding to the fun, monkeys frolic all around. There is a wide parking area and shopping facilities. Bus and auto stands are right near the waterfalls.
Between Peraruvi and Ayntharuvi, an artificial lake has been created where boating is available. Visitors can reach all other falls easily. Accommodation is available at Kuttalam and surrounding places. Pilgrim spots of all religions are located nearby, attracting devotees. The area around is a thriving agricultural landscape, producing fruits, flowers and paddy. This makes a visit truly worthwhile.
Looming over Kuttalam like a citadel is the Western Ghats covered with clouds. The Palaruvi waterfall near Aryankavu in Kollam district is also not far.
The Courtallam Border Rahmath Kadai can be reached while travelling from Sengottai to Kuttalam. It is about 2 km from Sengottai. The famous border chicken and kutti parotta here should be tried. A speciality is pepper chicken kothiyittathu. Chicken fry is also popular. No broiler chicken is used to make the dishes and the taste of the gravy lingers for a long time, say foodies. The items are served on banana leaves. It is a trend among many tourists to gorge on Rehmath’s parotta and chicken after a good bath at Kuttalam.
Kuttalam can be reached via Thenmala and Sengottai or Tenkasi from Punalur. Thenmala is 25 km from Punalur. Sengottai is 29 km ahead and Kuttalam is 7.5 km from there. From Tenkasi, one can reach the falls by travelling 7 km.
Visitors keen to travel close to the forest, hills and through tunnels can take the Punalur-Sengottai hill railway, which has been restarted now. Train travellers can get down at Sengottai station. The only train along this route is the Kollam-Tambaram Express. It leaves Punalur at 2.12 pm and reaches Sengottai at 4.55 pm. Auto and bus are available to Kuttalam from there. The return train leaves at 11.45 am.