The Siruvani dam is 48 km away from Palakkad town and is 56 km north of Mannarkad. Though the source is in Kerala, it’s Tamil Nadu that enjoys the water rights. The dam was built across the Siruvani river to cater drinking water to Coimbatore.
There are stories galore woven around the dam and why Siruvani is perhaps the sole reservoir in India which has been kept out of bound for visitors amidst indescribably beautiful landscape of the Western Ghats where forests, hills and vales, and flora and fauna have conspired to make it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations. Shrouded in mystery, the place will not lend itself to being explored in full - the entry in to the forest is forbidden beyond a point as it is dense and dangerous. An interesting nugget of information is, the dam, though opened in 1984, has so far not been formally inaugurated.
It so happened that the dam was all set for a formal opening. But all those leaders bestowed with the responsibility of inaugurating the dam died one after the other. This sent the dam into folds of superstition. However, those who visit the place, go back enchanted by the beauty of Siruvani.
Currently, visitors have been banned from entering the dam area. The Forest Department cite the precarious state of the roads as the reason for this ban.
What lies ahead
There’s an unmistakable whiff of the wild when one goes further on the narrow leafy tarred forest path, covered under layers of fallen leaves. On either side lie dense forests. A thick vegetation of long palmed plants lines one side of the path. Though they look like palm fronds or are similar to coconut palms, they are thick and keep the forests dark and brooding.
As the trek moves deeper into the forests, the isolation is broken by the sight of tribal people who live around the place. Siruvani has been home to the Mudugars and Irulars ever since they can remember.
The forests get denser as the walk proceeds. There are no creepers or undergrowth. There are open canals by the side of the road over which have been laid pipes that carry potable water from the dam. Along the way lie the quarters of the dam staff. Bisons are a regular sight at this place.
Trek further and comes an open space flanked by entrance to the dam, fashioned in the traditional style, from the Tamil Nadu side and the 150-year-old Pattiyar Bungalow. As the visitors are not allowed to take the well-laid road over the dam, to go to the other side one must take a roundabout, long, and rough route.
The other end of the dam sports the entrance from Kerala with a structure in Kerala Vaasthu welcoming to that part of the state. One of the most spectacular views of Siruvani can be had from here. The is financed by Tamil Nadu and maintained by Kerala. It’s ironic that the waters which flow from Kerala are sourced solely by Tamil Nadu for its people in Coimbatore.
It’s a sight to behold when the mists lift from over the water and the sun comes in with streaks of light. An ideal place for boating, Siruvani’s immense tourism possibilities lie untapped by Kerala.
Pattiyar Bungalow, built by the British, is an architectural rarity. Huge wooden columns and pillars, which have outlived the ravages of time support the roofed building and look as fresh as ever.
A stay here can be facilitated only if sanction is got from top Forest Department of Kerala officials. The panoramic beauty of Siruvani waters, the forests and the lofty mountains open up from the verandah of Pattiyar Bungalow. Bang in front is the waterfall from the Muthikulam mountains. The name is intriguing. How can a waterfall be named after a pond (kulam)? There is a pond atop the waterfall from where the water cascades down and the name Muthikulam is a corrupted version of the original Mukthikulam. Tribal people call their grannies muthis and perhaps the name could have been derived there.
Siruvani, the natives believe, got its name from the union of Siva and Vani. They also love to spin stories of the mysterious temple atop the mountain. In fact, Siruvani is steeped in folklore. The falls are like strands of thread winding down the mountain. But this look vanishes once it begins to rain. More than a dozen rivulets then pour down the entire mountain and the waters come thrashing down in mighty splashes. When the rain stops, it’s an interplay between thick mists and sunshine. Far ahead lie vast greenlands over which you can see the tell-tale marks of elephant stampedes. All these sights and much more can be seen from the verandah of Pattiyar Bungalow.
Pattiyar Bungalow, secluded and wrapped around by forests like the Siruvani will always be one of the most alluring places along the Western Ghats. Unless the government initiates steps for responsible eco-tourism, this beauty will only go to waste.
Railway station: Palakkad Town (22 km)
Airport: Coimbatore International Airport (under 50km)