Those familiar with the jal parvat of Baahubali or the backdrop of Dil Se’s ‘Jiya Jale’, or songs from Raavan and Guru should know that the scenery is not mere props or sets. A predominant character in several movies, the Athirappilly Falls nestle in the heart of a verdant Sholayar Reserve forest of Kerala. A part of the Chalukudy river that originates from the Western Ghats, the Falls gush down to 80 feet, making for a spectacular and voluminous sight during the monsoon.
From the time I had seen Athirappilly Falls in Baahubali, I knew this is where I should head during the monsoon. In India, falls can be rather disappointing at other times of the year. Chennai Express’ Dudhsagar Falls seemed a little more than a mere string of water in December. And this was not the only time, falls across the country had made me skeptical of their Photoshopped versions and what they really were in the naked eye of the tourists. Athirappilly was indeed a revelation.
A drive down 55 kilometres of canopied roads from Kochi, Athirappilly Falls is easily accessible for most. Once you reach there, you can treat yourself to three views of the falls: one from the ticket counter, the other from the top part of the falls and the third, from 80 feet below. The third view is not for everyone but definitely worth the trouble of climbing down slippery rock steps. Come rain or sunshine, given the force of the falls, one has to carry an umbrella to not get drenched in their proximity. If you prefer otherwise, then the wind and the falls will anyway do the honour for you.
The top part of Athirappilly is visited by most tourists and is prone to its share of garbage/waste being dumped. However, having said that, Athirappilly is still a hidden gem and unlike the falls of Pune and Sikkim, this is still a part of the country that needs its beauty to be discovered. Most tourists who visit Kerala would rather make do with the backwaters of Alleppey-Kumarakom, hill station of Munnar and Periyar Tiger Reserve but for a half-day trip, Athirappilly is a site one should not miss.
In the monsoon, the Athirappilly Falls is nothing short of a dream. Once I climbed down, there was very little that I could see due to the mist created by the lashing of the falls. The clouds and trees complete the breathtaking scenery. For those with high-end cameras, this could be an ordeal as it’s not just a few droplets of water but literally getting drenched in torrential rain. Every once in a while, when the wind slows down, you can try getting closer to the water but before you know, you will be blinded by the glare of the milky white falls and the wind lashing the water against your face.
Over the years the state government has proposed the creation of a dam near the falls and locals have vehementally opposed it saying that the hydroelectric project would affect tourism as the amount of water in the falls would drastically reduce. A shopkeeper near the entrance of the falls, however, remains hopeful. Ramanath who runs a tea stall at the tourist site said, “When Jairam Ramesh was the environment minister, he had not allowed the project to pass and in future given the threat to the biodiversity of the area and possible displacement of locals, it is hard for the project to get completed smoothly.”
The Sholayar forest reserve around the falls is home to four endangered species of hornbill birds and the Salim Ali Foundation has taken the initiative of biodiversity conservation in the area. Apart from monkeys all along the way, Athirappilly resounds with the echoes of different bird calls, especially in the wee hours of the morning and just before sunset. To live the experience, one must undertake a journey to this paradise during the monsoon. Also, do not forget the pineapple peppered with chillies that an old man offers near the entrance; the fruit definitely tastes tangier after a natural shower under the falls. For who knows, if next time a man-made structure would retain the untarnished majestic beauty of Athirappilly Falls, just the way it looks and feels today.
Ways to reach Athirappilly:
- Take a flight to Kochi and a cab to Athirappilly Falls. The Vazhachal and Charpa Falls are close by and most private cabs take you to all these places.
- Chalakudy station is closest to Athirappilly and there are buses connecting Ernakulam in Kochi to Chalakudy.
- One can also drive down from Valparai and Munnar.
Updated Date: Aug 27, 2017 10:44 AM