The incredible beauty of Kodaikanal grows manifold when in winters, cherry trees in the region sprout in pink hues of varying grade.
Travelling to Kodaikanal from Palani is like going through the Garden of Eden. There is hardly anything more refreshing than feeling a spring fresh nip in the air, while watching Tamil Nadu’s sun-scorched plains change into misty blue hills. Lush paddy fields and neon green banana plantations give way to stately silver oaks, rhododendrons and magnolias like no tomorrow. Dark pines struggle for space with the nearly extinct Shola grasslands, and wild flowers carpet every inch of the slopes. Kodaikanal is a very pretty place, especially in late winter, when the city’s Himalayan cherry trees dapple the hills pink.
A very popular destination for honeymooners, Kodaikanal is called the ‘princess of hill stations’. Gushing waterfalls, lakes, forests and rocky outcrops, make up its landscape and the region’s incredibly scenic hinterland offers excellent treks. Small obscure villages, tucked away amidst the hills, present a timeless charm. Kodaikanal owes its popularity to its cool weather, easy accessibility and flower filled gardens. With shimmering lakes creating evocative sights, the place seldom fails to mesmerise and is only 120km away from Madurai. Because of its location, one gets to enjoy a breathtaking panorama of the glue- green Vaigai plains at Kodaikanal and numerous bio-diversity hot spots that surround this British era summer retreat. During most of the year, Kodaikanal is a lovely dense green patchwork of forests and rolling meadows. Flowers seem to grow out of a thin air here and they are of an incredible variety and colour.
While rhododendrons and magnolias bloom in dashing pinks, whites and yellows, large open-faced dahlias stand like rows of mini suns. Water lilies float quietly on the still water of the Bryant Park pond and its prized ornamental plum tree bends with the heavy load of intense pink blossoms. Kodaikanal’s floral charms do not end here and its real highlight is the abundance of blooming cherry trees in the region. Tall Himalayan cherry trees line the star-shaped Kodai Lake and come late winter, they start sprouting in faint pink flowers.
Shades of pink
Rows of flower-filled trees reflecting on the lake water is a breathtaking sight and Kodaikanal’s cherry trees can be found all over the place. The lovely flowering cherry trees pop gorgeous surprises during the walks along paths that hug the ridges, hikes on the slopes of cedar and eucalyptus trees or on lazy forest trails of ferns and pines. No matter where one is in Kodaikanal, sweetly scented air, serenity and delicate pink cherry flowers are bound to follow. Someone has rightly said “In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.” It holds quite true, for Kodaikanal’s cherry blossoms create quite a furor among the visiting tourists and nearly everyone scrambles to take the perfect selfie under their pink shade.
Thankfully the trees trail beyond the city, all the way to Vattakanal, and it is easy to spot them between the dark pine forests. Splashes of bold pink scattered amidst neat rows of eucalyptus give out their presence and often clusters of delicate cherry flowers can be seen peeping out from behind groups of broad-leafed mahogany and myrtle. Kodaikanal’s cherry trees also grow on the mossy spring banks, which nurture thickets of exotic orchids. During their peak flowering time, the branches get covered like lovely pink curtains and they sway beautifully in the gentle hilly breeze.
All that special
Scientifically known as Prunus cerasoides, Kodaikanal’s cherry trees are cultivated for ornamental purpose and they produce yellow fruit, which turns red when ripe. These are mostly consumed by the birds. The trees are mostly famous for their aesthetic value, and though, they are neither prized like in Japan nor is their flowering as awaited as the once in twelve years blossoming of the rare kurunji shrubs, when a pink tunnel of cherry flowers shade a sunny road, or when gusts of wind make their petals dance like careless butterflies, it is a sight to behold. Humble, stately and omnipresent, there is nothing flashy about Kodaikanal’s cherry trees. They can be spotted even in the dim evening light when the mellow setting sun tints them with a deep magenta and the wind rippled lake water gets stained intense pink. Despite the deepening twilight, the cherry blossoms stand boldly confident in its bright hue as the rest of the foliage melts into darkness. It is only when the hill sides get dotted with myriad twinkling lights, do they disappear from view.
Words & Images: SVETLANA BAGHAWAN