The neighborhood is known as Anjanad (Anchanad) and comprises the five original old villages which were settled a few hundred years ago. Besides these settlements are others inhabited by tribal peoples who have dwelt in the forest and forest fringes since antiquity. Within recent decades a number of settlers from other areas have settled in Anjanad, yet the majority occupation remains agricultural and there is still the atmosphere of frontier town in the two small towns of Marayoor and Kovilkadavu which lie in the valley at around 3,000 ft. elevation.
Anjanad is located in Kerala close to the border with Tamil Nadu and has developed the mixed population character of border areas. For its limited size the cultivated areas display a surprising degree of diversity which is accounted for by the varied nature of the terrain and the elevation which ranges between around 3,000 ft. to 5,500 ft. In the upper area, where the orchard is situated, terraced land is intensively cultivated for vegetables while the rain-fed hill slopes, that radiate outwards towards the shola forested mountains, are primarily planted with Eucalyptus, lemon grass and, less frequently, coffee.
Lower Anjanad has plantations of rice, sugar cane and arecanut palm, while homesteads display considerable variety. The nature of the topography, however, only allows for limited cultivation as mountains rise to all sides, sometimes precipitously, dominating the skyline with their forested slopes interspersed by grasslands where the soil is poor and exposure most pronounced. This august natural setting where the highest mountains in South India soar to 7,500 ft. alt. (2,300 m) forms an awe inspiring backdrop to the area and serves to isolate Anjanad from the pressures and traffic of the plains.
The old and diverse agrarian community of Anjanad is set within the most extensive areas of wilderness in South India. The wilderness areas comprise a significant section of the Western Ghats and include the Eravikulam National Park; the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, beyond which to the north lies the Perambikulam wildlife sanctuary, and to the south the Palani Hills.
Though the neighboring tea estates extending from Anjanad to Munnar and beyond cannot rival the wilderness areas in scenery or wildlife, they are far more accessible and provide a straightforward way of getting into the hills and exploring their diverse and often spectacular features. Beyond the tea estates and stretching to the south towards Kumili, at elevations of around 1,000 m. large tracts of cardamom estates provide an opportunity of seeing the great forest trees of the humid tropics in something like a garden setting.
Anjanad and its surroundings is an area of outstanding natural beauty presenting the visitor with an excellent opportunity to encounter an unusual diversity of scenery and become acquainted with rural life on the intimate scale of the hills. The best way to explore is on foot and frequently it is a case of the further you go the more rewarding it becomes. There are many communally used tracks and trails to explore the inhabited areas, but it is advisable to take a local guide, as they know the terrain, the sensitivities of the local people and can help you out should any difficulties arise.
Walks and Drives in the neighborhood
The drive from Udamalpet (Tamil Nadu) to Marayoor (Kerala) takes you from the lush irrigated farmlands of the plains, through the Chinnar wildlife sanctuary and into the hills, traversing some of the finest scenery in south India. Click on the tab to the left for an impression of some of the scenes that await you.
A selection of guided walks through the sanctuary are available on request from the forest check post, Chinnar. The area is warm to hot through most of the year, so walking is best attempted during the cool monsoon months or during January and February. Click the tab on the left to see the scenes of one such walk.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays the Chinnar sanctuary forest wardens permit pilgrims to walk 2-3 kilometers into the sanctuary to a hallowed shrine beside the river at Kodandur. Click on the tab to the left to see the river scenes at this tranquil spot.
The road from Marayoor to Munnar passes through a series of tea estates. A mere 10 kilometers or so distant from Marayoor, the Talayar tea estate is among the most scenic of them all. Bounded by impressive mountain peaks on both sides the tea estate nestles in a valley through which a river runs amid large stone boulders. A large variety of flowering trees are interspersed among the tea bushes, creating a memorable impression, particularly during the dry season when flowering is at its height. Many splendid scenes await the traveller on this road. Click on the tab to the left for a sample.