Tamil Nadu’s Hogenakkal Falls, or Smoky Rocks, draws visitors with its incredible beauty, health benefits and other attractions
Post monsoon is the best time to get away and enjoy a ‘green’ holiday. The rivers and streams are at their gurgling best and waterfalls cascade in full force. Experience the natural environment and bring back the culture and heritage of local people as well as an enduring respect for nature. Make tracks to the enchanting world of Hogenakkal, in Tamil Nadu, which has emerged as a flagship eco-tourism centre, because of the majestic Hogenakkal Waterfalls and the incredible beauty and tranquility of its surroundings. Located in the western part of Dharmapuri district, Hogenakkal is surrounded by a chain of undulating hills with an average elevation of about 914m above mean sea level. The River Cauvery, which gives rise to Hogenakkal Waterfalls, serves as a natural Inter-State boundary between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Cauvery enters Tamil Nadu at Hogenakkal and is considered particularly sacred at this spot. The pool into which it falls is called ‘Vagnakundam” or sacrificial pit. The carbonatite rocks in this site are considered to be the oldest of its kind in South India and one of the oldest in the world.
Often referred to as the ‘Niagara of India,’ Hogenakkal Falls are reputed for their medicinal properties and therefore have tourists coming in droves to take a dip in its waters. The 15-km descent from Pennagaram to Hogenakkal snakes through interesting terrain, comprising villages with lush fields of mulberry and the broad-leaved castor. On the outskirts of the rural settlements are fascinating guardian deities, called Aiyanars, which are brightly coloured giant figures made of terracotta, depicting fearsome, mustachioed warriors. The vegetation around the eco-tourism site is predominated by southern tropical mixed deciduous forests and tropical riverine forests. There are about 484 species of flora, while valuable species like Sandal, Anogeissus latifolia, etc, abound here. The main falls are an enchanting vertical drop that form part of the River Cauvery, and are situated at the juncture of the Cauvery and Chinnar. After this confluence, the river changes into a series of waterfalls, which cascade from a height of about 20m (66 ft) with a misty smoke and a thunderous sound. The nomenclature of Hogenakkal comes from two Kannada words, namely, ‘Hoge,’ meaning ‘smoke’ and ‘Kal,’ meaning ‘Rocks,’ – hence the term ‘Smoky Rocks.’ It is also known as ‘Marikottayam’ by the people of Tamil Nadu.
For the visitor, Hogenakkal throws up many attractions. The Crocodile Rehabilitation Centre, located opposite the Forest Cottage, houses about 113 crocodiles which are being maintained in 22 enclosures. The bilingual and pictorial interpretation of the crocodiles, plus the calm and green ambience of the place make it a memorable visit for the whole family. A charming Children’s Park, located within the Crocodile Rehabilitation Centre, is a fun place for kids. The soothing lush green surroundings are peaceful and rejuvenating, making the park one of the most popular attractions for tourists. The Medicinal Garden showcases about 108 species of medicinal plants which represents the native species. The main aim of the garden is to educate tourists about the local diversity and to encourage them into conserving and using these valuable species for their health and well-being. For a stunning bird’s eye view of the falls, Hogenakkal Forest Department, along with the Hogenakkal Eco-tourism society, have built a watch tower, from where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the falls. The Hanging Bridge in Hogenakkal leads to the rock-head overlooking the five falls. Apart from its tourism value, the Hanging Bridge connects the people living along the banks of River Cauvery to the nearest towns, thus bringing social and cultural harmony between the people across the states.
For accommodation, you could book rooms near Hogenakkal Falls. The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has many heritage buildings under its control, chief among them being the Chinnar Rest House, located in Bevanurmalai Reserved Forest, along the banks of River Cauvery. The Hogenakkal Cauvery Guest House, also located amidst the thick jungles of the Bevanurmalai Reserve Forest, offers meticulously maintained fully-furnished two air-conditioned suites with attached bath facilities. Don’t miss out on the round boat ride which commences with a 20-minute ride, after which a 15-minute walk gets you to the next course. From there, you are taken to one of the small waterfalls in the area. A total of four persons can be seated in the boat and it takes about an hour to complete the round trip.