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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Court bans use of oil, shampoos, soaps in bathing area of Courtallam falls

This place has very many names which include : Pithurkandam Theerthapuram, Vasantha Perur, Senbagaraniyapuram, Nannagaram, Gananapakkam, Thirikoodapuram …..   it is Kutrallam (or) Courtallam, the 'Spa of the south', situated at an elevation of about 167m on the Western Ghats in Tirunelveli District.  Considered an excellent health resort for its famous water falls and the atmosphere, it has interesting legend associated.   It is around 5 Km from Tenkasi – Senkottai and around 60 kms from Tirunelveli.

It attracts thousands of people heading for a bath in  Peraruvi(Main Falls), Chitraruvi(Small Falls), Shenbagadevi aruvi,  Thenaruvi(Honey Falls), Anitharuvi(Five Falls), Pazhathotta Aruvi, puli Aruvi(tiger Falls), Pazhaya Courtallam(old Falls),  and more..  the season here is around mid June to Sept.  Herbs and fragrant trees are plentiful here. Courtallam water has medicinal properties since the water runs through forests of herbs and the water has therapeutic qualities to cure physical ailments.  In the sweltering summer, the very thought of Courtallam would make one feel pleasant. 

Picture credit :

‘தேனருவித் திரையெழுப்பி வானின்வழி ஒழுகும்’ is how it is hailed … ‘Thiru Kutrala Kuravanchi’ written by ThiruKooda Rasappa Kavirayar praises the place Courtallam and ThiruKutrala Nathar, the deity at this place.  The South West Monsoon brings in the cold breeze with mild temperature. In one of the seasons, a group of our friends headed for the Main falls at mid night (yes at 12  in the night) …… and ….  –there were so many  lined up – with Police regulating the crowd – allowing people rationed time …. On a couple of times, found that Police would object to people loitering in shorts – but those covered with smaller towers was ok…. In the bus and everywhere else crowds would mingle – one will find people applying varied oils on them …..

In the city and elsewhere you find lot of boards advertising ‘massage’ especially the Thai message; you see many Vietnamese or people with similar looks ………. In different names -  a deep, full-body massage progressing from the feet up, and focusing energy lines throughout the body, with the aim of clearing blockages in these lines, and thus stimulating the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body, is considered a healthy experience.  At Courtallam, people apply varied oils – stand in the falls - ~ a few seconds the oil would be gone due to the force and strength of water and one feels very fresh …. ~ there are also various types of massage with oil done by specialists !

Those who have had personal experience will understand all this better -  now comes the news that the Madras High Court on Tuesday (24.6.14)  banned the use of oil, shampoos, soaps and washing of clothes in the bathing area of the Courtallam falls. It observed that the falls was not being maintained in tune with its historical fame and glory.  The Hindu reports that a Division Bench, comprising Justices N. Kirubakaran and S.Vaidyanathan, passed the order on a public interest litigation petition by an advocate. The court directed the authorities to ensure that the prohibited items were not carried to the bathing area. If the items were found, they should be seized and the violators fined.

The petitioner, R. Krishnasamy, said the falls should be maintained properly. During the season, several lakhs visited Courtallam but there was no regulation by police. Traffic was not being regulated despite a charge being collected for vehicles. There were no rooms for changing clothes for men and women. The court appointed T.S.R. Venkataramana, an advocate and a former MLA, assisted by Arun alias Arunachalam as Advocate-Commissioners to inspect all the falls and file a report in May. The Bench observed that the report gave details of the sorry state of affairs in Courtallam. The report pointed to pits in the Old Courtallam area, dilapidated condition of toilets, poor lighting facilities and lack of dressing room for women.

Mr. Justice Kirubakaran said the authorities should maintain the falls properly. Considering the condition, people were bound to get diseases by taking bath in the falls, instead of getting cured of their ailments. It was shocking to note that sewage was being drained into the river, which was supposed to be the source of drinking water for Tenkasi and Tirunelveli area. Though the local town panchayat had prohibited the sale of shampoos, soaps, oil and detergents, it was seen that no proper steps were taken to completely ban the sale or prevent visitors from carrying these items to the falls area. In its nearly 30 directions to the authorities, the Bench said safety pillars and railings should be made of materials which do not rust. Pits and holes in the bathing area should be closed with good quality concrete. More high-mast lights should be erected in the falls area. Toilets should be repaired. Police should ensure that people did not drink in open places, public roads and even in cars. A mobile court should be stationed so that offenders were tried immediately.

The Court directives certainly seem to be in the right direction. At Thirukutrallam, there is famous temple dedicated to Lord Thirukutralanathar (Siva). This temple contains many inscriptions about Chola and Pandya Kings….. in the nearer Tenkasi, there is the temple of Kasi Viswanathar.  The temple tracing back to Parakrama Pandian is huge with imposing gopuram.  At the start of the last century, a lightning reportedly shattered the Rajagopuram, which now stands restored with much financial assistance of Sivanthi Adithan and others.  The gopuram  and the entry gateway  are said to be among the highest in South India

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th June 2014.

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