A temple on a hill
A trip to Dharmalingeshwarar temple is rejuvenating, says PANKAJA SRINIVASAN
PHOTO M. PERIASAMY
HILL WITH A VIEW The scenery from the Dharmalingeshwarar temple is breathtaking
"This check dam dates back to the 7th Century. It was built by Nedunjadai Parandakan and is the last surviving one of the 44 check dams on the Noyyal's course." This nugget of information comes from palaeontologist A. R. K. Arun as we make our way to the Dharmalingeshwarar temple. It is amazing how the past stares us in the face everywhere.
The RLT, which would otherwise have just been about a temple on a hill, took on a special meaning. Thanks to Arun's storehouse of information, one really got to "see" the flora, fauna and the history of the area.
A fresh green cover replaces grey dust and brown muck. The lungs breathe in clean, sweet oxygen instead of foul air. In the distance are the Ettimadai and the Walayar ranges.
A temple on a small hilltop. Sounds easy enough till the hill looms up. To my discerning eyes, there is nothing small about the hill and the temple is a speck of white way up. "It is `only' 400 ft high," says Arun comfortingly. And he keeps up a stream of interesting information. The hillock forms the outermost fringe of the Western Ghats. It is pretty as a picture, but one still has to climb it.
A story goes that a poverty-stricken family from Erode once contemplated suicide here. As they prepared to throw themselves off the hill, they saw a precious stone, which they sold, became rich and lived to a ripe old age. The story is diverting and has served its purpose as, looking over your shoulder, you realise how high you have climbed.
The flora and fauna
Two trains look like silver-blue caterpillars as they head in opposite directions. Tiny houses dot the landscape and it is absolutely quiet actually not quite, as a babbler calls in the distance and a bulbul and some peacocks seem to respond. Tinkling cowbells, and you could stay there forever. But the temple beckons and reluctantly one starts climbing again.
A patch on the rock moves and with envy, you watch as a rock lizard gracefully streaks up and slips into one of the cracks in the rock where some wild orchids grow. Scorpions and snakes like the pit viper are commonplace here, one is told.
Now every moving leaf, every twig, every rustle seems to be an impending attack from snakes. At last! The whitewashed steps of the temple. We remove our shoes and climb the remaining steps to the top. The view is worth the entire climb, breathlessness, screaming muscles and all.
Forest-clad hill slopes greet your eyes. The elephant corridor falls there, says Arun and you smile imagining a file of dignified pachyderms ambling their way through a tree-lined pathway. Another hill yonder wears a frill of white clouds and begs to be photographed while a third one has a rock that looks ridiculously like a rhino's head sticking out.
The peace is unbelievable. Cool breeze, spectacular view and blissful silence with just a hint of scent from the burning incense sticks in the temple.
Walk around the temple, observe the view or just close your eyes and let the serenity wash over you. Whatever it is you do, it is rejuvenating.
The climb down brings with it some more treats. Now you can hear a coppersmith bird and suddenly, Arun lunges forward to rescue a bright green leaf from under my big, clumsy foot.
To my amazement, it is not a leaf at all. It's a bush cricket. So thin, it looks like a paper cut out. It even moves on the ground like a leaf being bowled along by the breeze.
When set down gently on the rock face, it unerringly makes its way to the nearest clump of green where it merges with the leaves. Survival tactics.
The leisurely climb and back have taken about two hours. We re-enter the real world of potholes, people and petrol fumes.
How to get there
Drive down 15 km away from Coimbatore, towards Palakkad. The temple is near the Marappalam bus stop at Madukkarai.
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