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Sunday, January 8, 2023

Elephant massage at Chiang Mai ~ தேனருவித் திரையெழுப்பி Courtallam

Chiang Mai  is the largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province, and was a former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna  which became a tributary state of the Kingdom of Chiang Mai.  The city sits astride the Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River. Chiang Mai means "new city" and was so-named because it became the new capital of the Lanna kingdom when it was founded in 1296.  

‘தேனருவித் திரையெழுப்பி வானின்வழி ஒழுகும்’ is how it is hailed in the ‘Thiru Kutrala Kuravanchi’ written by ThiruKooda Rasappa Kavirayar – it is the place Courtallam and ThiruKutrala Nathar, the deity at this place. Courtallam, the 'Spa of the south', situated at an elevation of about 167m on the Western Ghats in Tirunelveli District. It is around 5 Km from Tenkasi – Senkottai and around 60 kms from Tirunelveli.  Courtallam has numerous waterfalls and cascades and is considered the spa of South India. 

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. People apply varied oils on themselves and 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 ! 

The local experts claim that these massages cool the body, reduce burning in the eyes, improve blood circulation in the body and are good for the face. They all use til oil, renowned for its natural relaxing properties. Also used are other oils and balms like Ponnangani and Santhanaadi thailam. The art is learnt from senior masseurs and passed on from one adept generation to the next.  It is (all) oil in a day’s work !!  Some months ago, the Madras High Court banned the use of oil, shampoos, soaps and washing of clothes in the bathing area of the Courtallam falls.  Acting on a Public interest litigation, 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.

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.  Massage has been one of  Thailand's calling cards ~ but this one at Chiang Mai offers to be much different and awesome in its pure sense.

Being trampled on by a three-tonne elephant is not usually the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about ways to relieve stress. But tourists are flocking to a jungle camp in Thailand for just that. The spa treatment is being offered in Chang Mai province, where a number of Asian elephants - that weigh anywhere from 2.25 to 5.5 tonnes - administer the massage using their trunks and feet ~ the gutsy among you can imagine about lying infront of an elephant and getting trampled upon, though gently. 

In the melee, TOI and other newspapers reported that at Trivananthapuram, a  tourist couple from Ahmedabad were trampled to death by a wild elephant while on a trekking session in Gavi in Pathanamthitta district.  It was reported that Bhupendra Raval (52), who works as a General manager in a private firm and his wife Jagruthy Raval (50), an ISRO scientist, were on a two-hour trekking trip, accompanied by a guide, and organized by the state forest department.

Another guide who was 300 metres away from the incident said there was a loud shriek from the middle of the cardamom plantation [part of the trekking path] and when he rushed to the spot the elephant had already mauled the middle-aged couple and injured the guide who had accompanied them. It occurred at Gavi, an integral part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Although this is for the first time such a gruesome incident has occurred in this area, it is a fact that trekking into the buffer zones of the Tiger Reserve poses a huge risk to life as elephants routinely stray into these areas.  During peak tourist season over 1,000 visitors reach Gavi every day putting great strain on the rich wildlife habitat of the area.

The Periyar Tiger Reserve has a healthy elephant population which has been increasing due to conservation activities of the forest department but ironically the Kerala Forest Development Corporation wants to cash in on its huge tourist potential by pushing for one-day trekking expeditions which seem to have boomeranged on them. At times, the flash of the camera is stated to irk the elephants.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

16th Feb 2015.

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