Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve Wild Life sancturies
The Mundanthurai-Kalakad wildlife sanctuary in Tirunelveli district is developed as a National Tiger Reserve from the year 1988 with a total area of 817 sq. km in the south most western ghat ranges. The nearest stations are Cheranmahadevi, and Ambasamudaram which are 20kms and 15 kms respectively from Tirunelveli. The nearest airports are Madurai and Trivandrum. One can reach this place by road also from Ambasamudaram and Kalakad. Frequent buses are plying from Ambasamudaram and Kalakad to this place. Out of 817 sq. kms.459 sq.kms is in core zone and 358 sq.kms. is in buffer zone. The mountainous undulating to topography is the characteristic feature leading to tropical dry deciduous forest on the lower slopes and tropical wet evergreen forests on the upper reaches. The climate is dry humid and hot at plains and pleasant cold in the higher elevations. The reserve is the southernmost habitat of the tiger. Other predators like panthers, jungle cats, civets, dholes, jackals, striped hyenas are also found here. India is the home of 18 non-human primate species of which five primates occur in this reserve namely lion-tailed macque, slender loris, Nilgiri langur common langur and bonnet macaque. Other endangered species found here are Nilgiri tahr, sloth bear, Indian bison, Indian elephant, Malabar giant squirrel, mouse deer, pangolin etc. In addition to that sambar wild boar, spotted deer, porcupine and mangooses are also found here. We can also come across reptiles and amphibians like king cobra, common krait, russels, viper, darkpit viper, monitor lizard, garden lizard, tortoise, crocodiles and rare species of frogs. Regarding avifauna there are more than 80 species of birds found in this region. To mention a few spotted frequently here are egrets, herons, jungle fowl, spurfowl, partridge, quails, emerald dove, minivets, bee caters, sparrows, owls, night jars, kites, paradise flay catchers, and parakeets etc.There are 24 identified nature trails which is spread over the reserve. It gives a thrilling experience to trekkers. This Tiger Reserve is open on all days between 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the year. However the best season is September to January. Forest Rest Houses and dormitories are available at Mundanthurai and Thalayanai.
District Science Centre, Tirunelveli (National Council of Science Museums, Government of India)
The District Science Centre is unique Institution situated on the banks of Tamiraprani. Popularising Science, inculcating the spirit of enquiry, fostering creative talents and infusing scientific temper in life, are its objectives. This autonomous body is a unit of the National Council of Science Museums, attached to the Department (HRD)Government of India. This is one among the 124 centres in the country.The centre has 3 permanent galleries on ocean, a semi permanent gallery on popular science and a six acre science park where numerous exhibits help create awareness of scientific development among the people. A good collection of films and video cassettes on nature, wildlife computers etc. given face lift to the centres. It organises video and planatorium shows ( a planatorium shows the night sky during day time). The centre gives heart-beat demonstration at the animatorium, has a sky observatory to view heavenly bodies through telescope and science demonstration and lectures on everything from electronics to salts. Kits are also lent to schools for effective classroom communication. In addition to the above facilities the District Science Centre is also organising the following programmes Mobile Science Exhibition, Planetarium, Film Show, Temporary Exhibitions, Science Drama and Science Fair.
Birds Sanctuary at Koonthankulam
A tiny village in the far south, Koonthankulam in Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli District is emerging as a new favourite of the migratory birds. It is just 38 Kms. away from Tirunelveli and is in the nearby Nanguneri Taluk. It may soon be catapulted into the list of popular water bird sanctuaries in the country. This village is sparsely populated. Migratory birds start coming by December end and fly away to their northern homes by June or July after they lay eggs, hatch them and the young ones grow old enough to fly with the older ones. About 35 species of birds visit this calm but congenial village for breeding. The birds called Painted strokes are coming from North India and East European Countries to this place. Similarly the flamingoes which flew in mainly from the Rann of Kutch have hatched and reared their young ones in the village.
It is an excellent health resort. The picturesque surroundings with the backdrops of cloud capped spurs of the western ghats lend an unusual charm to the falls. The rapturous scene of the falls gets heightened by the cool breeze that wafts during seasonal months (June to September) along with intermittent drizzle and sunlight. There are eight places where water pours down torrentially with varying velocity and force according to the height of the precipice. They are Main Falls, Five Falls, the Shenbhaga Falls, the Tiger Falls, old Courtallam Falls, Honey Falls, Orchard falls and Sitraruvi. Visitors to this place like to have bath in these falls from dawn to dusk. One can have bath at anytime in a day and one would not get sneezing or cold as the water is said to possess medicinal qualities of the herbal plants grown in this mountain. Those suffering from rheumatic joints, chronic headache, nerve disorder get cured by a lengthy stay at Courtallam.
The Venkatachalapathy temple at Krishnapuram village on the Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur main road about 12 km from Tirunelveli is one of the few specimens depicting the architectural marvel and grandeur. It is indeed a treasure house of stone sculptures. Many rare intricately carved sculptures made of granite stone are fine exhibits of architectural skill. This temple is dedicated to Lord Venkatachalapathy with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi on either side. The temple is complete in itself, since it is following the temple agamas. It is said that Krishnappa Nayakkar of Nayak dynasty had commissioned some famous sculptors from Vijayanagaram and they have left behind a wonderful collection of sculptures that tell us tales of heroic love and tragedy.
Nelkattumsevval or Avudaiyapuram, situated in Sankarankoil taluk is to be written red letters in the history of the Freedom Movement of India for it was the headquarters of Pulithevar, the first chieftain in Tamil Nadu to resist the British. The author of the Tirunelveli District Gazetter, H.R.Pate, observes as follows: "Nelkatumseval is chiefly memorable as having been in the eighteenth Centurystronghold of the redoubtable Pulithevar, who figured for many years as the leaderof the Marava Confederacy against the troops of the Nawab and the Company. He had a shrewd insight into the political situation of the time and was a veritable thorn in the side of the Nawab's agents" Pulithevar remains one of the illustrious figures in the chequered history of palayakkars. The vivacity of his character gave him an ascendancy over the western palayakkars, while his determined resistance to the Nawab's overlordship made him a potential enemy of the Wallajahs. He was in fact the principal architect of the coalition of the palayakkars organised against the Nawab. The Nawab acknowledged his victory by presenting him with a gold plate and sword. Pulithevar is regarded as the first south Indian ruler, who sowed seed by his gallant resistance to expel the foreigners from the soil. His services to the nation is honoured in many respects and the government of Tamilnadu has erected a memorial for him in Nelkattumsevval where there is the remnants of his palace.
Swamy Nellaiappar Temple & Kanthimathi Ambal Temple
The temple of Nellaiappar and Kanthimathi is situated in the centre of the town and at a distance of two km. from the Railway station. The very name of the town, Tirunelveli which was known in the past as Then Pandyanagaram is a part of the town which has developed around the temple of Nellaiyappar. From the distance itself one can have a beautiful view of the great gopuram tower. Both the gopurams were built according to the rules laid down in the agamasastras by Rama Pandyan. Nindrasir Nedumaran who reigned in the Seventh century A.D. also contributed by constructing and renovating important parts in this temple. A beautiful flower garden originated in 1756 A.D. next to this Chain mandapam welcomes us with many colourful fragrant flowers. This garden had been designated by Thiruvengadakrishna mudaliar. A square vasantha mandapam with 100 pillars is found in the midst of this garden.
Sankaranainarkoil, commonly called as Sankarankoil is a town well connected with Tirunelveli and other parts of the district with good bus facilities. The Lingam in this temple is the personification of earth. This temple was built by Ukirapandiar who ruled this area in the early part of the 11th century A.D. It was his daily routine to go to Madurai on elephant's back to worship Lord Somasundarar and Meenakshi. On one particular day his elephant dug a pit with its trunk, fell and rolled over the earth, and refused to move further. Manikreevan one of the king's watchmen rushed to him and informed about a Siva lingam and a Cobra coiling on it in Punnai forest. When the king came there to witness this an oracle was heard at that time which instructed the Pandiya king to construct a temple and worship him with utmost devotion which the king obliged. Ugra Pandyan constructed a temple and worshiped the deity. Nagasunai, the most sacred one is said to have been dug by two serpent king Sankan and Padman. There is a belief among the people that the dip in this holy water will cure all the diseases. Similarly the earth from the ant hill is also said to have great medicinal value and is said to cure skin diseases.
Sankaranainarkoil & Adi Thapasu Festivel
Sri Gomathi Ambal did Thapas at Punnai kshetra and Lord Shiva gave Her darshan as Sankaranarayanaswamy on the Uthirada day in the month of Adi (June-August) and thereby indicating that God Shiva and God Vishnu are same. Further to prove this theory, it is also said that Sankaranarayanasami gave darshan to Sankan and Padman. It is in practice to make the psychiatric patients, or those suffering from diseases and persons believed to have been haunted by evil spirits, to sit on Sri Chakra peetam, in front of Goddess Gomathi Amman continuously for 40 days so that they could be cured.
Manjolai - Hill Station
Manjolai is 57 km away from Tirunelveli and is at an elevation of 1162 sq. metre. There are many tea plantations in and around this place. Bombay Burma Tea estate is famous one in this area. About 4000 people are working in these tea plantations. Manjolai is noteworthy for the climate, scenery and calm atmosphere. This place can easily be compared with Udhagamandalam, the queen of Hill stations as far as the pleasing climate and peaceful natural atmosphere are concerned. Just above Manjolai, there are places like Kakkachi and Nalumukka which are real gifts of the nature. On the way to Manjolai from Manimuthar there is a very beautiful place called Dasan Pool with plenty of fresh water, greens and fine climate.
Kappal Matha Church, Uvari
A small church for St. Mary which was under the control of pastors of Goa mission existed here. In course of time, in 1903, this church was converted into a school. On important occasions as per the wishes of the people, festivals were conducted and prayers were offered to her. There was a custom among the young maidens to go to the nunnery in the night and sleep there. On one such occasion they saw a bright light surrounding this Selvamatha statue even though nobody lit a candle. Many people of Uvari witnessed this light which was there for over an hour. This incident occurred on 18th September which is celebrated as a festival. People used to keep this statue in a chariot and come around this town to bestow the blessing of Mary to the people of Uvari. Due to sea erosion the old church got damaged. Therefore the people decided to construct a new church for which the foundation stone was laid down by Fr.Thomas in 1970, 25th January and the work was finished on 1974. This church designed as a ship, is called Kappal Matha church after its design. It is beautiful church facing the blue sea. The waves rolling near this church gives us an impression that this ship shaped church is sailing on the sea which is a feast to eyes.
The centre of attraction of this place is the oldest dargha built around the year 1674. This dargha attracts not only the Muslims but Hindus and Christians also in equal numbers. This has been built adopting Hindu temple pattern. If the prayers of the pilgrims are answered, they pay their offerings, through the dargha in large numbers during Kanthuri festival with great reverence. In this dargha where the lebbais act as priest, customs almost similar to that of Hindus are followed in the rituals. Here holy ashes obtained from tamarind bark, ghee, and flowers called nerchai are distributed to the devotees. For this Andavar, sheep and fowls are brought by all the classes of people and sacrificed before him as they do before the local Amman deities. Now refined people offer fruits for their worship rather than fowls and sheep. Sandal paste is prepared in a pot on a large scale during the time of the kanthuri and is sent to the Hindu village of Ravanasamudram, from where it is brought back to this dargha with great pomp. This is offered to the Andavar. Afterwards this sandal paste is distributed to the eagerly awaiting crowd without discrimination as to caste, creed or religion. This stands as an example of communal harmony and secularism. This Dargah is considered as a pious and a sacred one equal to the Nagore dargha and only next to Baghdad by the people of this place.
Thiruvalluvar Two Tier Bridge
The two tier over bridge, namely Thiruvalluvar Bridge at Tirunelveli Junction was constructed to avoid the railway line crossing. The total length of bridge is 800 metres. This type of two tier bridge constructed in Tirunelveli is the first of its kind in India. This bridge was opened for traffic in 1972. This two tier over bridge consists of 25 spans of which 13 are of bow string arch, each with a width of 30.30 metres and 12 are single tier R.C.C girder each having a width of 11.7 2 metres.
Holy Trinity Cathedral (Oosi Gopuram)
The Holy Trinity Cathedral a small, elegant and beautiful Church was built in 1826 by Rev Rhenius and opened to public for worship on 26 June 1826. It took only 175 days for its construction which cost about Rs.2000/- This small church with an oblong edifice measuring 64 ft. by 30 ft still serves as a nucleus for this massive Cathedral which developed in later years. This amount came as donations not only from Christians, but from Hindus and Muslims as well. Venga Mudaliar had donated 168 acres of punjai land for the maintenance of this Church. Many renovations and additions were made to this structure. In the year 1845, a tall stately steeple of 158 feet soaring into the skies was added by Rev. Pettilt and has made the church a landmark all over the district. This church is locally well known as "Oosi Gopuram" as a land mark. The resonant bell gifted by friends in England and installed in 1850 has unfailingly chimed the hours, calling the faithful to worship over the years and the clock set in the tower is relied upon by the entire town as its beloved Big Ben. Many improvements, extensions and renovation works have taken place subsequently in the years 1846,1850,1853,1869,1870,1876,1926,1932, 1937 and 1998. In 1940 Bishop Stephen Neil raised its status as the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Painting, flooring and other extensions were made in the following years. This Church is involved in many social services like paying visit to hospitals. This Church plays a vital role not only in spiritual upliftment of its people but also in the material upliftment like providing education, distributing free food and clothing and helping them in the construction of their houses etc.