Seeking peace of mind but don't have the time? There are hidden paths in the forests of Ponmudi which would lead you to pockets of absolute serenity and all you need is a day to yourself.
Ponmudi or the 'golden peak' is a hill station about 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, easily accessible by road. Being the nearest hill station to the state capital, Ponmudi is a paradise for gypsy travellers and thrill-seekers but no longer houses many untouched natural vistas.
One spot, however, often escapes even the most thorough travellers – Seethatheertham. It has no strings attached to the shrine in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, that goes by the same name. In fact, this temple dedicated to goddess Sita lies atop a hill. Made unassumingly of straws and husk, this temple stands strong on a wide expanse of rocky hills, surrounded by nothing but silence and strong winds.
A few metres from the temple is a foot imprint, plastered and preserved for believers and curious visitors. Local legend narrates a tale of Sita's visit with Ram and Laxman to this place, on their way back to Ayodhya. The preserved foot print of Sita lies near the edge of the hill.
A dainty, perennial stream runs through the rocks here. It is believed Sita, on her visit, satiated her thirst after a tiring journey. The stream never fully dries up and often invites wild animals during pitch summers.
Whether you are driven by, faith or wanderlust, the trek that leads to this temple will mesmerise you. The trek is conducted by the Kerala Forest Department, tickets to which can be bought at the check-post 2km ahead of Ponmudi. If you are travelling by KSRTC bus, you may get down at the check-post, purchase the ticket and walk uphill through the forest road till you reach Ponmudi Forest Office reception, where the guided trek begins.
Standing at the reception buzzing with tourists, adjoining a busy cafeteria kitchen, it may be hard to believe that soon all you will hear would be rustling of leaves and orchestra of crickets.
As you enter a densely vegetated path, a few meters away from office, you can feel the sudden drop in temperature and light. Follow the trails of a rocky path which, moulded by tree roots, takes form of steps at places. The climbs are of medium difficulty and hence may be taken up by beginners, too. In case you have been putting off your trekking plans for the fear of tiring yourself out, this may be the perfect stepping stone for the adventurer in you.
After almost three-fourth of the trek you will be met by bright light and this is where the rocky terrain begins. You will be greeted by an unending view of the grand, green hills. The shrine will also be visible at a distance, like a tiny beige dot on dark rocks. It is a picture perfect view that stays with you for a while.
Depending on the season you visit in, the weather might get interesting here. The sun rays fall sharp on the hill top but the cool winds balance them out, making it an altogether pleasant experience.
You will need to take off footwear before entering the temple premise. The tiny temple is a raised concrete platform surrounded by walls made of straw and houses four idols, namely of Sita, Ram, Laxman, and Hanuman. Irrespective of the facts, it is an intriguing site that triggers imagination of how these legendary characters would have made it to this secluded corner of the world.
Drenched in wonderment, continue the trek further towards a more elevated area of the hills where an almost cliff-like natural structure overlooks the depths of the valleys below. It is hard to spot any civilisation at this point apart from a few resort buildings in the far distance.
Soak in the grandeur for a while before to head back to the base camp. Although an easy trek, it will leave you with a gaping appetite that will be delightfully met by the canteen there.
With just four items on the menu, the canteen serves basic but delicious meals. Of the four items, a plate of steamed kappa with two types of spicy chamanthis – crushed green chillies and spiced coconut – seems to be the most in demand. The food here really is the cherry on top of a fulfilling trip.
Laze around in the compound garden before you leave behind the serenity and head back to your city life.
Things to remember
Multiple buses run between Thiruvananthapuram and Ponmudi and the journey takes close to 2 hours. The first bus leaves TVM at 5.30 am.
Being a rural town, there are no ATMs or banks in Ponmudi, so kindly carry enough cash on the trip.
The nearest town with ATM facility is Vithura which is 21 kms away.
Carry enough water for the trek. You may buy water bottles from the cafeteria.
The ticket charges for the Seethatheertham trek are Rs 500 for a group of maximum 10 persons.
Minimum number of trekkers for the trip has to be two.