Agasthya 5.3 Forest or temple on the edge?
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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If you happen to drive on the narrow road north of Kalakad you will notice a huge hill to your left as your near the small town of Kolundamamalai, a scrub clad hill jutting out of the plains and separated from KMTR by a deep and narrow irrigation canal. The legend behind the origin of the hill has the usual Hanuman story of dropping a part of the Sanjivini mountain he was carrying from the Himalayas to cure Lakshman of a near fatal wound. The name Kolundamamalai is supposed to come from 'kolundu' which means fresh leaves. At the base of the hill, approximately two km from the main road, is a small old temple of Murugan which is surrounded by scrub forest and plantations. The temple rarely attracts visitors and once the evening sun dips behind the Kolundamamalai hill, it remains a desolate place in the tranquil darkness giving company to sambars, civets and the occasional owl.

If you do the same drive at dusk on the day of the Thirukaarthigai or Kartik poornima which falls in November or December, you will notice a small fire (deepam) on top of the hill. During this day the temple is decorated, well lit, music is played and a temporary kitchen is made to feed hundreds of people who come to the temple. A small group of 3-4 people go up the hill early in the day and reach the summit in time to light the fire. The fire is lit in 2-3 places on the hill, some seen from the west and some from north west. This group returns the next morning after making sure the fire is properly doused. The hundreds of people who visit the temple litter the place. The forest department does its bit by putting up bins to collect the garbage. Fortunately nobody camps in the temple at night and the temple returns to its desolate nature late at night on the poornima day itself.

The Kolundamamalai temple is on the edge of the forest and people do not venture inside the scrub except for the small group that lights the fire. The scrub is very dense in the foothills and almost impenetrable. There is a fair amount of wildlife around the temple; sambar, porcupine, hare, bear, wild boar apart from owls and number of birds of prey that are found in the hills. There is also a small group of langurs but they are confined to the interiors. Our earlier mammal survey also indicated presence of leopard and a tiger on the western side of the hill. The presence of the temple at the edge of the forest does not currently have much impact on the forest itself but to make sure that it does not become a bigger pilgrimage in the near future, sincere efforts will be required. It's still not in the list of Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu which is a blessing but that could be short lived as newer temples are added to the list regularly. To counter this it would be more pertinent to encourage a greener festival with strict regulations working with the temple authority, forest department and other stakeholders that would retain the sanctity and tranquillity of the place.



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salegame

Volume 5,  Issue 3
      November 2011

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Forest or temple on the edge?
- T Ganesh
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