About Courtallam Main Falls (Kutralam Main Falls)
Courtallam Main Falls (or Kutralam Main Falls) was perhaps what Julie and I thought to be the creme de la creme of the collective 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 in the Courtallam (Kutralam) area.
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).
In addition to being a large and impressive waterfall, Courtallam Main Falls also was said to possess Ayurvedic healing properties. In fact, I’ve seen instances where some doctors even recommended or prescribed bathing in these falls. Since we knew that India was well-known for producing doctors, maybe they were onto something. Perhaps given its reputation of having healing properties, I’ve seen that Courtallam itself had been proclaimed as the Spa of India.
In addition to changing rooms, they also designated ladies only and gentlemen only sections. The ladies were on the far right side of the falls while the males were on the left side. A small stone arch bridge segregated the two sides beneath the falls though we didn’t see anyone cross that bridge (access to the ladies side was via a walkway opposite the stream and plunge pool to the right of the bridge over the stream). There were some local authorities who made sure there was no mixing of the genders on either side of the falls.
Adding to the already impressive characteristics of the waterfall, there was a very large, crazy busy, and loud yet atmospheric marketplace fronting the bathing area of Courtallam Main Falls. Embedded in this chaos apparently was a long Hindu temple (which might have been the source of the loud music we were hearing). 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 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.
Even though this was a very busy 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.
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.
We were told by our Keralan driver that we happened to be here when devout Hindu males had just begun fasting for 40 days, and 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 (note sure whether he meant in the Indian Himalayas or in Nepal or just some local place nearby) to pray.
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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