September, 2018: Flowers and plants have always attracted mankind time immemorial, and the late bloomers have a special place in the hearts of one and all. One of the many late bloomers and cherished sight is ‘The Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana)’ that blossoms only once in 12 years, carpeting the hill slopes during the flowering season. It is believed that the Paliyan tribal people apparently used it to calculate their age, basis the blooming of the flower. The wild flower grows at a height of 30 to 60 cm on hills slopes at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where there is little or no tree forest. The flower has no smell or any medicinal value. The famed Niligiri Hills , which literally means the Blue Mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji.
Neelakuringi represents the self awakening of a woman, as in the Tamil traditions a girl is considered to attain sexual maturity at the age of 12, for the Todas blossoming into womanhood had a poetic identification with the flower, for the Badagas at their funeral litany asked for forgiveness for the sin botching the plant, for the poets it is a symbol of longing for love and happiness, for the tribal Kurinji is the symbol of love and romance.
A lot of mythological significance is attributed to the flower. Both the Muthuvas of Munnar and the Todas of the Nilgiris consider the flowering of Kurinji as auspicious. However there are taboos that prevent them from destroying the plant or its withered twigs until the seeds mature ten months after the flowering. As the saying goes, it is an auspicious time to be when the Neelakurinji flowers and it is believed to bring prosperity in the wake.
Kerala Tourism took a setback when floods ravaged the state last month. While the deluge subsided, God’s own country has been left in a pretty bad shape. And as the people of Kerala are slowly coming back to normalcy and helping those who lost everything to build up their lives, nature seems to have revived first. Neelakurinji had grabbed headlines two months ago when they bloomed in Munnar after 12 years. And Kerala which receives tourists from around the world was expecting over 8 lakh travellers to see the flowers. But as rains began, it left a grim face over the fate of the flowers.
However, after the tough times, flowers have graced the hills once again in a purple hue. Yes, after rains washed away everything, Neelakurinji has bloomed once again! Munnar was among one of the most affected regions during the recent floods with landslides and broken roads reducing its connectivity from the rest of the state.
Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) blooms in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India. Munnar’s Eravikulam National Park is one of the main spots to see the flowers. To see the flowers, the national park charges Rs 120 per for adults and Rs 90; you have to pay Rs 40 to use a camera. You can make the bookings on www.munnarwildlife.com or www.eravikulamnationalpark.com. For foreign nationals, the tickets will be priced at Rs 400. Before this Neelakurinji bloomed at the Eravikulam National Park in 2006.