Situated at an altitude of 1100 m above sea level, Wagamon is located on the outskirts of the Western Ghats and is surrounded by three main hills - Murugan, Kurishumala and Thangal hills representing the principal religions in Kerala - Hinduism, Christianity, Islam - depicting the cultural harmony. Vagamon also known as the ‘Scotland of Asia’, was first discovered by the British.
I have visited this place, God only knows, how many times. The lush greenery, the clinging dew on the plants freshly formed from the tears of sky, the hovering dark clouds and the misty mountain breezes, the wriggling rivulets breaking free - Nature's lap was my picnic spot. And monsoons, adds a mysterious charm to Vagamon, intensifying her enchantment. Each time I come here this haven looks new and different to me, like Nature's fleeting moments.
The journey to Wagamon, through the smooth highway, with majestic mountains and deep ravines on your side is an overwhelming experience. Driving through the sharp curves of the meandering rock-hewn roads uphill, with deep gorges on the turns, dangerously seducing, is exhilarating. Stopovers on the route provide magnificent views of the deep valleys and the rolling plains below, the pine trees capped mountains and the mystical mountain streams.
Wagamon has everything a nature lover or a nature photographer seeks. The undulating hills, the green meadows and pastoral farms, the mystical pine forest, a reclusive monastery, the tea and spice gardens adorning the landscape, the mellowed mountain streams and the cascading waterfalls in the rocky terrain, the misty breezes veiling the mountains - it's the perfect dream.
Wagamon has many incredible spots that are breathtaking. My favourite has always been the monastery and the pastoral farms. Having been always fascinated by Wordsworth's imageries, the monastery-'Kurishumala Ashram' and the pastoral meadows, have always bewitched me. The abbey, an abode of Cistercian monks and nuns, follows the traditional Indian monastic lifestyle blending Christian faith and Gandhian thoughts. An idyllic spot for meditation, the silence, the serenity, the simplicity and the sanctity you find here, is surreal. Everything and everyone here, dwells in harmony with Nature and in communion with God.
The livelihoods of the hermits are met by the dairy farm, here. This Indo-Swiss project dairy farm provides around 1500 liters of milk daily and breeds livestock, and is managed by the monastery. The farm consists of different breeds of cattle from Indian varieties to the huge Swiss cows. The adjoining milk packing plant sells 'Kurishumala' milk. This dairy farm not only meets the needs of the monastery but also provide employment to the poor, and the farmers of the nearby villages. The ashram also produces vegetables from their garden, and bread, for the community’s needs.
The place has a catchment adjoining the grazing area. The mesmerizing kisses of the breeze, the wailing melodies of the wind singing through the mountain harps, the chorus of the cicadas, the mingling notes of the stream in the canal, the cool touch of the misty meadows, the sweet scents of the flowery bed - yes, this is my heaven :)
Unfortunately, due to the destruction of the pristine lands of this paradise by reckless tourists, access to most of these areas, particularly those near to the monastery, have been restricted now. The plain disregard of the environment by those who cannot respect nature, is heart aching. No wonder that the monastery prohibited the entry of vehicles, two kilometers from the entrance gate!!
There are also other areas of scenic beauty in Vagamon. A little far from the entrance gate to the monastery, if you take the stone laden offbeat path way off the commonly threaded road, you can find yourself at a lake in the valley of a mountain. The lake is surrounded by a knee-length stoned wall and hedge rows. If you can find your way through it, (or above it), you will reach the lake. It’s not a usual tourist spot and because of that, you can still see the beauty of this virgin land. The lake is clear and calm, and the whole landscape with the misty mountain breezes and the mingling notes of the wriggling streams coming from some hidden place which finally ends up in the lake, mesmerizes one. You can’t just make yourself leave that place.
Another area that I love in Vagamon, are the undulating hills of Kolahalamedu. The term ‘Kolahalamedu’ means ‘meadow of sound’- due to the constant sound made by the wind. The incredible beauty of these rolling meadows, nevertheless, have now been destroyed by the rough riding of vehicles up and down. There is a suicide point near these grassy hillocks which is also a great view point for the valley below. Sometimes, wandering further, you may reach some pastoral lands with the cattle grazing. Most of the evenings, these rolling hills are covered in mist adding a peculiar charm to this place.
Another marvelous area in Wagamon is the dense enchanting pine valley forests of Kolahalamedu. The lofty pine trees lined in rows covers a vast area of sloppy hills and is of a mystical beauty. It is so intense and dense, that even the sun rays find it tough to intrude here! However, you can see how other intruders are causing pollution to this pristine area. If you can manage yourself to get carried away from here, you can reach other pine forests where tourist folks usually don’t go. If you can get away again from this area, there are other woods in the nearby mountains that are not as dense as these.
Wagamon is also a trekker’s paradise. There are a number of trekking paths in this hill station. About 5kms from Vagamon, there is Thangal Hill or 'Thangalpara'- a renowned center for Muslim pilgrimage, which houses the mausoleum of Sheik Fariduddin. There is an ancient cave here, winding kilometers. This place also has a suicide point. The interesting rock formations in Thangalpara add a peculiar mysticism to Vagamon. Situated near to Thangal hill, you can find the Murugan Hill. This hill houses a Murugan temple - a magnificent structure carved out of rock on one side of the hill. The temple with gorgeous stone-age carvings, worships the Hindu god, Lord Muruga. Another view point here is the 'Mooppanpara', with a steep, deep canyon, and provides a spectacular view from the summit of this strenuous climb.
A part of the Western Ghats, the 'Kurishumala', meaning the 'Mountain of the holy cross', is just 10km away from Wagamon and is situated much closer to Thangalpara. This is a famous pilgrimage center for the Catholics where 14 crosses are arranged in each sub stations for the way-of-the-cross, and is highly frequented by the believers, especially on Good Fridays. The highest peak in the Kurishumala, known as the ‘Resurrection Garden’, is a place wholly secured for meditation. The view from the top of this mountain is really breath taking.
There are other mountain peaks in Vagamon in the adjoining area, where you can view the whole landscape and the beautiful valleys. There are avenues for trekking, paragliding and mountaineering, here. If you take the path less travelled, you can find yourself in beautiful tranquillizing places.
- Wagamon is located 60 kms from Kottayam, Kerala and the nearest airport is in Cochin- about 100kms from Wagamon. Since the place isn't a full-fledged tourist spot with facilities, this place is ideal for a single day visit.
- Kurishumala Ashram is a place of retreat, and not a tourist spot. You can contact them, if interested in knowing more about them or to stay here for some time - to learn about them, live the lifestyle, and meditate in retreat.
- Vagamon has great spots for trekking, paragliding, rock climbing and mountaineering expeditions.
- Other prominent tourist centers nearby are Thekkady, Munnar, Kuttikanam, Peerumade and Kulamavu, and are directly reachable from Vagamon.
- Enroute to Vagamon, there are beautiful, idyllic, less known nature spots, ideal for a quick stopover or a half-day break- Illikal Peak, Maramala Waterfalls and Ayyampara Hills. For art and history buffs, the Poonjar Palace, is a great destination to marvel the royal richness of a bygone era.
This trip was first published on The Road Less Travelled.