Agasthya Mala is a mountain range that borders the states of Kerala on the eastern side and Tamil Nadu on the western side. The range passes through Kollam and Thiruvanthapuram districts of Kerala and Kanyakumari and Triunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu in India. Its peak is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve. The name of this mountain range comes from that of Sage Agastya who has found mention in Hindu Puranas as one of the revered seven seers. The local dwellers call this peak as Agasthyakoodam.
Agasthyamala and its Peak
This is a mountain range found in the southern part of Indian peninsula. It is part of the Western Ghat mountain range. Its peak is called Agasthyakoodam. This 1.868-meter tall peak falls within Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats of South India. The peak is also part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve that lies in the southern part of the two states – Kerala and Tamil Nadu. A river by the name Thamirabarani is originating from the eastern side of this mountain and flows to the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. This is a perennial river. According to "Thirukural", the sage Agasthyar lived on the slopes of this mountain range. Many historians regard Sage Agasthyar as the father of Tamil language. His name can also be found in the sacred texts such as Hindu Puranas. Hence, people from all walks of life pay a visit to this place seeking blessings of this Hindu seer. Keeping in mind the religious importance, people have installed the life-size statue of the Hindu saint on the top of this peak. The devotees come and offer floral tributes to this idol at a particular time of the year.
On the western side of this mountain range, two major rivers originate and flow through the Thiruvananthapuram district. They are Karamana and Neyyar rivers. The former is the major source of drinking water for Thiruvananthapuram city. It has a trekking path of nearly 35 kilometres. The adventure seeks can reach this trekking path from Bonocaud. It is nearer to Neyyar Dam and Ponmudi. The place Bonacaud is near the hill station Ponmudi. The mountain range also houses the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. One can see part of the peak Agasthyakoodam from the Upper Kodayar region.
Flora and Fauna
The lower part of the peak is known for rare herbs and medicinal plants. They are found in abundance in this region. According to Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), around 2000 medicinal plants used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine preparations can easily be found here. In places like Bonacaud, Brimore and Ponmudi, the visitors can see tea plantations. The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve harbours some of the rare flora and fauna found in this region.
The adventure-seeking tourists can avail the trekking facility only after getting the permission from the Kerala Forest Department. The permission for trekking is given only during January and February season every year. Another important fact is that the approach to the Agasthyakoodam peak is only from the side of Bonacaud, and that too by trekking. For trekking, the visitors need to follow the strict guidelines issued by the Kerala Forest Department. People who go for trekking avail the base camps at Athirumala, Bonacaud, Birimore and Ponmudi. The route Neyyar-Agasthyakoodam is not open for the public as per the Kerala Forest Department guidelines.