The Hills of Madurai
A visit to the Madurai hills is a big change from the hustle-bustle of city life in nearby Madurai; here, amid the bountiful lap of nature, there is peace and tranquility that rejuvenates the mind and invites you to spend some quiet time in silent meditation with the powers that be. A visit to the city should definitely be accompanied by a visit to its nearby hills.
The Samanar hills surround the ancient city of Madurai, the second largest city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu; during ancient times, these hills helped protect the city from invaders. They consist of eight smaller hillocks, of which there are three that are significant; these include the Yanaimalai (elephant hill), Nagamalai (snake hill) and Pasumalai (Cow hill), with the word ‘Malai’ referring to hill in the Tamil language.
The Keelakuyilkudi village nestles at the base of these hills and is about 15 km away from the Madurai city by road. Due to numerous religious findings, some as old as 2000 years old, the government has declared these hills as protected monuments that come under the care of the Archeological Survey of India.
The Samanar hills are a beautiful blend of nature with mystical history that gives us a glimpse of the cultural richness of this southern state. The breath-taking views of the surrounding areas from the top of the hills are really worth the steep climb and a challenge to the ever-ready selfie clicker! It invites you to go on an adventure and explore the surrounding caves, home to numerous bats, and generally considered safe to wander around in.
These hills have a rich history of Jain habitation as they fled into the hills to escape victimization by the monarchs of Madurai. Even today, numerous awe-inspiring Tamil-Brahmin and Jain inscriptions can be found on the rocks, depicting various facets of Hinduism. This area also boasts of 8 caves with mythical carvings and prominent sculptures dating back to the 1st century AD. The two Jain Tirthankaras sculptures, Settipodavu and Pechipallam are the major attractions of this hill and were built by Jain monks during the 9th century BC. Some of the inscriptions found on the hills are believed to be more than 2000 years old.
The Nagamalai is also home to many ancient statues and is famous for its rich diversity of snakes – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those interested in sighting snakes, this is a great haven. Atop the hillock there are naturally formed rocks that resemble the shape of a crocodile and even though there is no source of collected water there, there is a continuous water flow on one side which is believed to be healing.
This is a great spot to while away the day communing with nature and history and rejuvenating the soul….