About Courtallam Main Falls (Kutralam Main Falls)
Courtallam Main Falls (or Kutralam Main Falls, Courtallam Falls, or Kutralam Falls) was perhaps what Julie and I thought to be the creme de la creme of the collective of Courtallam Waterfalls.
The waterfall itself was at least 30-40m tall as well as wide enough to draw large numbers of people desiring to be pummeled by its Ayurvedic waters.
Indeed, there was such a mass of humanity during our visit in November 2009 that this was probably the most popular of all the waterfalls (said to be nine of them) in the Courtallam (Kutralam) area.
The Ayurvedic healing properties of the water were apparently recommended by some doctors as a prescription for treatment of some ailments.
Since we knew that India was well-known for producing doctors, maybe they were onto something.
Anyways, given the healing properties of the Courtallam Falls, I’ve also seen that the Courtallam area itself had been proclaimed as the “Spa of India”.
Experiencing the Main Falls of Kutralam
Our visit to the Courtallam Main Falls took place in the early evening of what seemed to be some kind of festival given the amount of people and commotion in the general area.
We had to walk through a few blocks of a bustling marketplace area, which I found to be very large, crazy busy, and loud (in other words, it was very atmospheric and worth the immersion).
Embedded in this chaos was apparently a long Hindu temple, which might have been the source of the loud music we were hearing.
Shortly after making it through all this activity (which seemed to intensify the later in the day it became), we then found ourselves on a walkway along the stream with people bathing and washing stuff in the water.
As we got closer to the Kutralam Falls, we saw gender-segregated changing rooms where the men were on the left side of the stream and the women and children were on the right side of the stream.
A small stone arch bridge segregated the two sides at the base of the waterfall, and there was another larger bridge further downstream doing the same thing.
There were some local authorities watching to make sure that there was no mixing of the genders on either side of the falls.
Overall, given the juxtaposition of the impressive Courtallam Main Falls and the bustling marketplace before it, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the energy of this place.
Where else but India could you mix a waterfall with a marketplace, a religious center, and a happening social scene?
Indeed, it was this strange yet interesting mix of activity that stood out in our minds as one of the most memorable waterfalling experiences we’ve ever had!
There just seemed to be a mystic air about our experience with this waterfall.
Standing Out From The Crowd
Even though it was very busy at the main Courtallam Waterfall, I don’t think many foreigners have come here nor had even known a whole lot about it.
The reason why we say this was because Julie and I were the only non-Indians during our visit, and it seemed as if we drew stares from the tens of thousands of people that were present.
Regardless of whether we were walking through the marketplace or experiencing the waterfall itself, we seemed to attract lots of attention as a result of how unusual it must have been to have foreigners here during our visit.
In one instance, I recalled that when we were busy trying to photograph Courtallam Main Falls and to enjoy the scene, we were suddenly inundated with a large group of at least a couple dozen people curious about what we were doing.
Some people even took photographs of us like the way paparazzi would take photos of celebrities (another indication that I guess we really stood out from the crowd since we were racially different).
I can’t say being the center of attention of so many people was a very comforting feeling, but it was definitely an adventure and learning experience to say the least!
Nomenclature of Courtallam Falls and the Main Falls
In terms of nomenclature, we realized that it could get a little confusing in that this waterfall was also called just Courtallam Falls even though that term often referred to all nine waterfalls collectively around the town of Courtallam.
So to minimize the amount of confusion, we sandwiched the “Main” term in the name to emphasize that this was indeed the Main Falls of the Courtallam area.
To further add to the confusion, we had also seen the name Courtallam spelled as Kuttralam, Kutralam, Kutrallam, as well as Courtralam among others (I’m sure there are other permutations).
This was probably due to the inexact science of mapping from the local pronunciations (not sure if its name was Hindi or Tamil or some other local dialect) into English.
By the way, from what I could tell, the individual waterfalls of Courtallam were: Main Falls (the one on this page), Old Falls, Five Falls, Shenbagadevi Falls, Honey Falls, Tiger Falls, Small Falls, Fruit Garden Falls, and Palaruvi Falls or Milk Falls (which was across the state border in Kerala).
We were told by our Keralan driver that we happened to be here when devout Hindu males had just begun fasting for 40 days.
Many of them liked to bathe at Courtallam Falls or one of the other Ayurvedic waterfalls in the area perhaps to wash away impurities or something like that.
I didn’t quite get what happened after the 40 days, but I thought he mentioned that these guys would then become worthy enough to make a pilgrimage into some temple in the hills to pray.
I also didn’t catch whether he said the temple sat within the Indian Himalayas or in Nepal or just some local place nearby.
Courtallam Main Falls resides in the Tenkasi District (formerly in Tirunelveli District) of Tamil Nadu State. It is administered by the Tenkasi District Government. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can visit their website.
Courtallam Main Falls seemed to be right in the heart of the Courtallam (Kutralam) town.
The hotel we stayed at (I believe it was the Saaral Resort) was within 10- to 15 minutes walk to get to the marketplace before the falls.
As for getting to the Courtallam town itself, we were driven here after visiting the Palaruvi Falls, and it took us about an hour (though this included a slight delay at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border crossing).
Courtallam was about 115km from Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum for short) where we ended our 2009 India trip (I recalled it took at least 3.5 hours drive). As for other towns, Courtallam is also 40km from Tirunelveli and 640km from Chennai (major city of Tamil Nadu, I believe).
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