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A heady mix of all, for all

People say if you have not indulged yourself with a cheroot from Dindigul, not bought iron locks from there for the safety of your home, not picked up the world famous Sungudi sari, not huffed and puffed your way up the 800 steps to Dindigul Fort or bypassed the famous hill station of Kodaikanal and returned without paying obeisance to Lord Murugan on the Palani Hills, then you have left Dindigul half done.In other words, what this important district of Tamil Nadu situated in the Western part of the State, offers is an interesting mix of tourism, religion, history and trade which any eager learner would like to acquaint with.

The name Dindigul comes from the Portmanteau of “Thindu” meaning pillow and “kal” meaning Rock and refers to the bare hill dominating the city’s both land and skyscape. While it is largely known as the “City of Locks, Textiles and Tannery", this piece of land sandwiched between the Palani and Sirumalai Hills has 200,000 hectares of cultivable land and agriculture continues to be the main occupation of its inhabitants. A reserved forest area of 85 hectares rich in flora and fauna enhances Dindigul’s appeal. Particularly the Kurinji flowers, which bloom once in 12 years, and carpet the otherwise rolling green hills of lower Palani range with a dash of violet is a frame worth preserving.

Historic landmark

The history of Dindigul revolves around its prominent landmark, the Dindigul Fort, an ancient fort, well preserved and rising tall and firm on a single and isolated granite rock 350 feet above the town level. The fortress initially came up on the hill during the Vijayanagar era (1336–1565) and was used in Hindu, Muslim, and British wars from the 17th to the 19th centuries given its position of great strategic importance. the fort battered by many a war was rebuilt as a citadel of the Naicker kings over a period of 54 years in the 17th Century.

Trade zone

If history beckons here, it is equally interesting to find that Dindigul has risen into importance as the centre of trade in tobacco and manufacture of cigars. It has been so from the time of British rule when a company called “Light of Asia" ruled the scene and it is said that Winston Churchill used to love the cigar from here. Two large European cigar factories continue to manufacture and export cigars to England. Presently it has the largest trading centre in Tamil Nadu for chewing tobacco. Well-known brands of scented chewing tobacco are produced in this town and sent to various places in the State and outside. The flourishing business of Roja Supari is run by N V K M Sultan Rowther’s family.The biggest leather party is K.A.R leathers accounting for 30 per cent of leather supply in Tamil Nadu.

Manufacturers of silk, muslin and blankets abound in Dindigul. After Coimbatore, Dindigul has the second largest textile spindling capacity in the State. Chinnalapatti, 11 kms from Dindigul on the Madurai-Dindigul Road is known for its flourishing hand loom industry. More than 1000 families are engaged in this industry.

According to Mr. A.P.Appukutty, President, Tamilnadu Spinning Mills Association, Dindigul, “the textile industry as a whole in the country but particular in the State of Tamil Nadu is experiencing really a tough time during the past one year. The spinning mills in Tamil Nadu are not having the level playing field when compared to their counterparts in States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc. Most of the spinning mills in Tamil Nadu are engaged in the cotton yarn spinning activities and therefore, they have to depend mostly the up country markets for their cotton requirements. To liberate the situation, the Government should give moratorium for loans for fewer years”, he further said.

Consolidating education

For a city with an average literacy rate of 79%, higher than the national average of 64.8% and an impressive male literacy rate of 84 per cent and female literacy 74%., it is not surprising that the city is educationally advanced with a sizeable number of academic institutions. There are several established and emerging High and Higher Secondary Schools including one of the oldest institutions in the city, St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School. Hillock International School, a fully residential & co-education school, started recently provides education to match with international standards. Well equipped Maths, English and Science labs are the highlight of this institution. It also provides special training on Yoga, Music, Karate. Coaching for Cricket, Basket ball, Tennis are also provided. Akshaya Vidyalaya Group of Institutions. Under the able guidence of Lion Dr. E.N.Palanisamy, Philanthropist and a leading entrepreneur runs several educational institutions namely Akshaya Vidyalaya Matric Hr. Sec. School, Cauvery Ammal Teacher Traning Institute, K. Nanjappa Gounder college of Education. Amma Illam, a school for mentally retarded children shows his commitment to help the needy. Dindigul is also home to two major universities, the Gandhi Gram Rural Deemed University and the Mother Teresa University for Women. Emerging health

Next to education, health is yet another important sector which has witnessed an impressive growth in the city. The 250-bedded referral missionary St. Joseph Hospital is known as Kataspathri. Literally meaning the Hospital in located in the mid of forest and since it was started by a Scottish missionary, the pronounciation Kataspathri is slightly anglicized. The Kasturba Gandhi Hospital at Gandhigram is reputed for providing free treatment to every patient.

Iswarya Fertility Centre, a team of doctors led by S.Chandralekha and Hrishikeshpai helping copules to deliver baby using one of the advanced artificial fertilization techniques. This year they celebrated the arrival of 2008th baby since its inception. On are new hospitals coming up by dime and dozen to meet the medical needs of the city. Gaining in importance and reputation is the Shifa Hospital giving hope to an increasing number of couples bogged down by infertility. Though there are failure in the management of infertility, medicos here are marching towards an incredible achievement, a victory of human will and technology. Evolving technology helps to achieve the goal of having children with dignity and to make treatment available to all.

Religious hotspot

Dindigul district is also an important pilgrim centre with a fair sprinkle of temples, mosques and churches across the city attracting thousands of devotees round the year. It is privileged to have one of the “six celebrated hill abodes of Lord Muruga” at Palani Hills, where the famous Dhandayuthapani Temple is situated on the hilly rock at a height of about 450 metres. Pilgrims visit this holy temple every day particularly during festival days, like “Thaipoosam, Adi-kiruthigai, Panguni Uthiram, Sura-samharam, Vaikasi-visagam and monthly Karthigai". Provision for electric winches and Rope Car are unique features of this temple.

Besides this famous Murugan Temple, there is also another Murugan temple at Thirumalaikeni, 25 Km. away from Dindigul town. Other important places of worship include the Abirami Amman temple in Dindigul town, Raja Kaliamman Temple at Thethupatti 20 km away from Dindigul, the 200 years old Sri Kottai Mariamman Temple constructed in the shape of a square, Sri Soundaraja perumal temple, well known for its Sculptures in Thadikombu, 8 km from the city, Kasavai Mouna Nirvaana Swamighal Aaalayam (God of silence) in Kasavanampatty Village.

St.Joseph’s Church was constructed during 1866 to 1872 by the British after the fall of Tipu sultan. This church is headquarters of Dindigul diocese of Roman Catholic Churches in Dindigul District. St. Antony’s Shrine in Marambady is 300 years old. Out of the temple circuit, Peranai and Sirumalai hills are the two fine picnic spots in the vicinity of Dindigul Town. Of course, the stand alone Kodaikanal needs no mention.

- Soma Basu

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