The floodwaters have receded and the heavy rains have subsided. Now, it’s time for the famed Neelakurinji blooms in the valleys and hills of Munnar to bring some cheer to Kerala. The hills of the Marayoor, Rajamala and Eravikulam National Park are covered with the purple-blue hues of the flower which only blossoms once in 12 years.
Rare Blue Beauty
As the name suggests, Neelakurinji or ‘Strobilanthes kunthianum’ comes in almost 40 varieties, a majority of which are purple-blue in colour. It is a shrub that grows in the forests of the Western Ghats.
While these flower every 12 years, there are some other varieties that bloom once in seven years. The blooming of Neelakurunji also helps some tribal groups to calculate their age.
Ray Of Hope
Large parts of God’s Own Country Kerala were devastated in the recent floods. The state is now on a long road to recovery. News, and images, about the beginning of the Neelakurinji’s flowering season have led to hopes about an early revival of tourism.
Owing to the massive landslides and heavy rains in the region, the government had imposed a travel ban to hill stations in Idukki, Wayanad and Palakkad districts. The flow of tourists is slowly rising after the ban was lifted on 1 September.
The budding of the flower got delayed by two months due to the heavy rains and landslides but now the Munnar district is open for tourism to witness what is popularly known as “The Neelakurnji Phenomenon”.
Bid To Draw Tourists
In order to attract tourists to the region, major routes connecting Munnar have been unblocked. These include the Kochi-Dhanushkodi National Highway, Munnar- Udumalpet National Highway, and the Munnar- Nedumkandam route.
Authorities have also planned to repair and temporarily fix the Periyavara Bridge on the Munnar-Marayoor route. This connects Eravikulam National Park to the Munnar district.
With the help of tourism associations, the Tourism Authority of Munnar has organised a car rally named Blue Mountain, from Ernakulum to Munnar on 12 September give a boost to tourism in the area.
The ticket for the flowering and the national park has been set at Rs 120 per for adults and Rs 90 children; and at Rs 40 for those who wish to capture the beauty in a camera. For foreign nationals, the tickets will be charged at Rs 400. About 75% of the total tickets can be bought online.
Neelakurinji In PM Modi’s Independence Day Speech
Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to the flower in his speech on Independence Day, saying, “This year, the Neelakurinji flower in Nilgiri hills is blooming in full colours”.
This flowering can be seen as the mark of hope for revival and prosperity for the people who have suffered the pangs of flood, landslide and heavy rain in the last month.
The Previous Bloom
The beauty of the Neelakuinji shrub was last witnessed in 2006, from August to October. It had flowered in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Munnar, the mega Kurinji bloom carpeted Kovilur, Kadavari, Rajamala and Eravikulam National Park.
In 2017, the flower was only seen behind Kumaraswamy temple in Ballari district in Karnataka.
(All photos: Courtesy keralatourism.org)