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Blooms once in 12 years & treasures the unknown: Kerala's pride, ‘Neelakurinji’

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

If Kerala was ever in your wish list, then the wait is finally over with ‘Neelakurinji’ blooming in Munnar after 12 years. Kurinji is actually a flower and Neela means ‘Blue’ and Neelakurinji translates to ‘Blue Kurinji’ flower in English. You won’t find Neelakurinji in any other part of the world, which makes itself a rarest of the rare. The last bloom of Neelakurinji was in 2006. And after a long 12 years the flower is blooming this year and this is why Munnar has been added in the list of ‘Top Places to Visit in Asia in 2018’ by the ‘Lonely Planet’.

Neelakurinji is a rare purple-blue colored flower which only blossoms once in 12 years in the lush hills of Munnar, Kerala. The season starts in July and lasts till October. For people who don’t know, Munnar is a beautiful hill station situated in the Western Ghats mountain range in Kerala. Once in a lifetime, everyone should experience the charm of Munnar, the chill of its hills, the abundant green valleys, the silvery rivers, the cascading waterfalls, fascinating plantations, and every other bit of this place.

‘Strobilanthes kunthianus’ is the scientific name of Neelakurinji. The name is actually derived from the Kunthi River which nourishes the expanse of the renowned grasslands and valleys. Kurinji flower is considered to be a symbol of desire for love and happiness for the poets and for the tribal; it is the symbol of self awakening of a woman. The Neelakurinji blossoming is spread across 3,000 hectares of rolling hills which is covered in purple/blue colors. Each plant reproduces once in its life span and then dies after flowering. 

We might have seen or read about a number of blooming valleys and flower-laden grasslands all over the world, but there are many reasons that make Munnar and its Neelakurinji exceptional. The peculiarity of Munnar Neelakurinji is its uniqueness. The flower blooms only in Munnar and nowhere else. Even though the plants are found in a sparse amount in other southern hill stations, the one in Munnar is plentiful, rambling magically across its green mountains.

The Neelakurinji plants are camouflaged into the wide vegetation of Munnar and they go unobserved during the off seasons. During the blossom season, the Kurinji flowers take the center stage in Munnar. The flourishing azure flowers turn the place ethereal and the view of the valley decked in blue is too stunning to be true. Although Neelakurinji was supposed to have been blooming in June 2018, but due to late monsoon, the blooming started in the first week of August 2018. Moreover, there are 250 different types of Kurinji and 46 varieties of Neelakurinji in India, which also includes red and maroon flowers but Neelakurinji is the most famous.

The Muthuvan tribes, who are the original inhabitants of Munnar, determine their age in relation to the number of Neelakurinji blooms they have observed. The Paliyans of Tamil Nadu also use the blooming cycle of Neelakurinji flowers to calculate their age. At the time of blooming season, honey bees gather nectar from the Neelakurinji flowers and this honey is considered to be tastier and healthier than the regular honey we use.

Since these unique flowers bloom only once in every 12 years, they bring a huge number of tourists to the south Indian state. The next flowering season will be in 2030 and that is really a long wait. So if you want to witness the majestic beauty of the Neelakurinji, make your way to Munnar this year. Not only the Kurinji in the valley is a sight worth seeing but the hill station in itself has tremendous beauty that just can’t be missed out. These flowers begin flowering during the last phase of monsoon and by the time, the rains goes back, the blue flowers cover the entire valley in blue/purple shades. Although the peak blooming seasons are ideally September and October, but July is the best time to visit this place if you want to avoid the crowd.

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