Once in every 12 years, the Neelakurinji flowers cover the slopes of Munnar with full blooms. Visit between now and October to witness this phenomenon. By Radhika Sikaria
The Neelakurinji flowers have a life-cycle of 12 years and each flower lasts about 15-20 days once it has bloomed. There is no better time to visit the hill station than now.
The verdant tea plantations that enjoy most of the tourist footprint have been overshadowed by the eye-soothing blueish-purple radiance of the Neelakurinji flowers. One of the best spots to seek them out is the Eravikulam National Park, which is also home to the endemic Nilgiri Tahr. The sight of this endangered mountain goat sauntering amidst the blooms is one to behold. Other must-see spots include Vattavada, Kovilur, Kadavari, Rajamala, and the tallest peak in south India—Anamudi Peak. You can contact your tour operator to organise a special trekking programme during the flowering season, or seek the help of the District Tourism Promotion Council of Idukki.
The enigma of the flower has often inspired literary experts to romanticise it. In Kuruntokai, a Tamil classic book of poems, the flower has been compared with the eternal union of lovers. In Tamil tradition, young girls on the bring of puberty at 12 are metaphorically represented by the imagery of Neelakurinji. The local tribes also use the flower as a reference point to calculate their age.
The flowers, confined to the shola grasslands of the Western Ghats, drew more than four lac visitors to Kerala when it last bloomed in 2006. This year, the state expects the tourist influx to double and has decided to allow an additional 40 per cent visitors into the Eravikulam National Park in comparison to its regular 2,750 visitors per day.