munnar
Neelakurinji


" Once in a blue moon green hills of Munnar transforms into blue mountain with the arrival of blue blossoms - Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes Kunthiana) "

Hundreds of thousand spectators visit these hills to witness the magical metamorphosis of Munnar mountain, yet there are a hundred other reasons to visit Munnar. Neelakurinji - belongs to the genus 'Strobilanthes' which was first scientifically described in the 19th century. It has around 250 species, of which at least 46 are found in India. The name Neelakurinji derived from the purplish blue flowers of that blossoms gregariously only once in 12 years. Plants that bloom at long intervals like kurinji are called plietesials. The plant is usually 30 to 60 cm high on the hills. They once used to cover the Nilgiri Hills and Palani Hills like a carpet during its flowering season. Now plantations and dwellings occupy much of their habitat. In 2006, Neelakurinji flowered again in Munnar during the season from August to December.


Neelakurinji show an unusual flowering behaviour.This legendary flower blooms once in 12years and is due to enliven the mountain scapes, once again in the coming year. The Muduvar tribe, which inhabit the mountain ranges around Munnar calculates its age with blossoming of the Kurinji. The home of the Kurinji, which had remained inviolate for millennia, was damaged beyond repair in the last 100 years.. as the forests was cleared for tea and cardamom plantations and for timber. The introduction of foreign species such as eucalyptus, pine and acacia tree in the 19th century by the British people for firewood is a major threat as they need more water and grow fast.Another major threat for the Kurinji flower is from the local people. The habitat of Kurinji flowers are cleared by local people for dwelling and farming.

The Kurinji symbolizes clandestine love or premarital romance. Kurinji flourish in valleys, in slopes and in gorges. All of them have a periodicity from eight to 12 years. In recent years, the Pondicherry-based Salim Ali School of Ecology has been studying the blossoming of the Kurinji. The rarity of its flowering makes neelakurinji a legend in itself that no one wants to miss the opportunity of viewing it in full bloom this year.Neelakurinji is a bush with several branches. The plant grows profusely in the shola grasslands of Western Ghats in India. It looks light blue in the earlier stage of blooming.Kurinji flower produces mass seeds this phenomena is termed as masting which can be defined as "synchronous production of seed at long intervals by a population of plants". These species reproduce once during their lifetime and then die.

    

The flowers picturesquely carpet the entire hillsides with its mauve blossoms. Visitors to Munnar in the comming months can enjoy this marvelous sight. The next flowering is in the year 2018 and thereafter in 2030. Once in a life time rare sight of the Kurinji flowers covering the slopes and ravines of Munnar in a blanket of blue. Campaigners want the entire stretch from Kodaikanal to Munnar in Kerala to be declared as the "Kurinji sanctuary. Immense quantities of honey become available and the rock bees and common hill bees visit the plant. The flower has 50 different varieties, as botanists say, but is found largely in shades of blue. The flowering season comes between August and November and peak in late September and October although some varieties exhibit little variation. The departments of Tourism, Forests and Wildlife have initiated a campaign for the preservation of Neelakurinji and its natural habitat. During the last blooming in 2006, the biggest Neelakurinji flowering was at the Eravikulam National Park in Munnar.

   
One interesting result of the gregarious flowering of Stroilanthes is the largest increase in bees found in its vicinity during the flowering period. Immense quantities of honey become available and the rock bees and common hill bees visit the plant. It is also believed that honey collected from near the blossoms is the sweetest.
   

A lot of mythological significanced is also attributed to the flower. Both the Muthuvas of Munnar and the Todas of Nilgiris consider the flowering of kurinji as auspicious. However, there are taboos that prevent them from destroying the plant or its withered twigs until the seeds mature ten months after the flowering.

The Sangham classics have several references to the kurinji flowers though some of the descriptions may be referring to flowers of karim kurinji (the white flowers of black stalked kurinji) instead of the neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana). Several folklores of Todas refer to kurinji. The classical Carnatic music has a ragam (tune) named kurinji. A postal stamp depicting the 'kurinji' flower which blooms once in twelve years was released on 29 May 2006 by the postal department of India.The Kurinji postal stamp was released under a scheme named 'explore the mysteries of nature through Indian postage stamps'.

   
In olden times, the abode of kurinji itself was referred to as kurinji. The five physiographic divisions or ecozones of Tamilakam were referred to as kurinji (hilly backwoods), palai (parched zone), mullai (pastoral tract), marutam (wet-land) and neital (the littoral). This classification also applied to areas of Kerala.
   

Myths Behind Neelakurinji

Kurinji is the flower of Lord Muruga (Murukan). The Muthuvan lore has it that their god married Valli, a veda (tribal hunter) girl, by weaving a garland of kurinji flowers (kurinji malar) around her neck. For them, kurinji is the symbol of love and romance. They also calculated their age as multiples of the flowering cycle of kurinji. The Todas do not associate kurinji with anything divine.

Varieties of kurinji

The flower has 50 different varieties, as botanists say, but is found largely in shades of blue -- referred to as "Neela Kurinji". The blossoms spread out as a blanket on the hill sides of the Anamalai, Nilgiris (Ooty) and Palani (Kodaikanal) hills. Campaigners want the entire stretch from Kodaikanal to Munnar in Kerala to be declared as the "Kurinji sanctuary.

Cultural Associations of kurinji

With the lives of tribals kurinji lore is inter-twined. Both the Todas of Nilgiris and the Muthuvas of Munnar belive the flowering of kurinji as Lucky. However, there are taboos that prevent them from destroying the plant or its withered twigs until the seeds mature ten months after the flowering. They also calculated their age as multiples of the flowering cycle of kurinji.

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