Rarely does any movie sequel take more than a decade in the making, so when the sequel to James Cameron’s box-office smashing sci-fi super hit Avatar arrives somewhere around 2020, it may or may not be worth the wait just for the simple reason that the ginormous time passage involved – the first one was released in 2009 – could very well have ruptured from the minds of the viewers, the bonds of emotional connect with Pandora’s paraphernalia, turning it into some distant long forgotten dream. However, the 12-year long hiatus that one must endure to witness the mesmerizing Munnar valley dyed in the blue of Neelakurinji flowers, is definitely more worthwhile than watching some pixelated dance of 10 ft. tall, blue hued humanoids on a 70 mm screen in 3D.
Neelakurinji goes by the botanical name of ‘Strobilanthes kunthianus’ derived from River Kunthi, which nourishes the vast expanses of many renowned grasslands and valleys. But, when serendipity draped in serenity is your life’s quest, would you really care if it went by the name of ‘Hickory dickory dock’? Do not miss wood for the trees they say, but what they left unsaid was never ever miss the aromatic elegance of a flower for some stupid scientific label. So, even simply calling it a flower will not rob it of its self-worth.
The 12-year hiatus will officially end in June 2018, when the majestic blue blooms of Neelakurinji will adorn the lush green landscape of Munnar, transforming it into a heaven of unparalleled splendour. If the previous blossom had not made headlines in 2006 owing to the nascent stage social media was in back then, make no mistake, 2018 is all set to inundate every nook and cranny of cyberspace with Neelkurinjji blues – a flowery Avatar in the making!
In itself, Munnar’s picturesque vista is breathtakingly magnificent, making it one of the rare places on this planet sought by those souls seeking emancipation from the humdrum of daily monotony. The tinge of blue that descends every 12 years is a divine icing on the splendidly resplendent cake of Munnar.
It’s not that there’s a dearth of jaw-dropping mountain ranges covered in the garb of equally stunning and colourful blossoms embellishing mother nature, but what sets the dynamic duo of Munnar and Neelakurinji apart from those is exclusivity and exile. While it’s true that few South Indian hill stations bear the bloom of Neelakurinji if only in meagre quantities, Munnar, on the other hand stands head and shoulders above them in that in that it’s blessed with the abundance of blue. The shades of Neelakurinji blues come out of exile every 12 years as if to answer the prayers and becoming a harbinger of hope to those weary-eyed travellers who have run out of spiritual steam.
It goes without saying that the best time to visit Munnar is right now as it won’t be until 2030 that you’ll find yourself raptured once again by the mesmerizing spell cast by Neelakurinji on the canvas of Munnar. The Neelakurnji flowering season coincides with the spring season of Kerala. The last phase of monsoon gives birth to the few first Neelakurinjis. As the dark clouds of monsoon recede overhead spelling the death knell for rains, the Neelakurinji blues expand underneath giving rise to a flowering paradise. The blooming season starts in August, progresses to its peak in September and October, while ending in November. If the adage of two’s company three’s crowd applies to you, then the beginning of the flowering season, when the social media has not yet reached its frenzied peak gradually turning Munnar into a crowded cauldron of blue thrill seekers, would be the best time to visit. If the sight of Munnar in all its crowded glory does not flinch you, then have no qualms about taking a plunge in September or October.
The number of entry tickets to Eravikulam National Park during Kurinji season will be restricted to a limited number so that the sanctity and beauty of Munnar in its bluest glory stays intact. The forest department of Munnar has proposed to the State Government to stop tourist vehicles plying through major roads from entering the heavenly abode of Munnar during the blooming season. Only tourists with valid entry tickets to Eravikulam National Park will be allowed to revel in the glorious spectacle of Neelakurinji’s transcendental beauty.
The eye-soothing blue hue, which is the prime attracting factor of the flower, turns to purplish-blue as it ages. The flowers reside in places of high altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where sub-zero temperatures greet you by sending shivers down your spine. A plant of shrub category, Neelakurinji usually grows 30-60 cm in height but if environmental conditions are considerably conducive, it can very well stretch up to 180 cms.
There are a whopping 250 different species of Kurinji with 46 varities found in India itself, including those with red and maroon tinge. Neelakurinji is a Malayali word, which simply means blue flower. The nectar collected by honeybees from Neelakurinji flowers during the season is considered highly palatable and nutritious. The people belonging to the Paliyan of Tamil Nadu used the Neelakurinji flowers as a reference to calculate their age.
If you are planning to visit Munnar during the Kurinji season, it is ideal to make the stay arrangements as soon as you can. The promotional undertaking of this unique flowering event by the government and ubiquitous social media is expected to reach a fever pitch in upcoming days attracting hordes of tourist to this once-every-12-year phenomenon, causing all the resorts and hotels in Munnar to be packed to full capacity even before the blooming starts. So don’t hang your hat on better-late-than-never aphorism; as in this case you may very well turn out to be late by 12 years.