Rush Hour

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…that is what the season of rain is in the Eastern and Western Ghats, when their cascading waterfalls jostle the evergreen tangle of their deciduous spread

Whether it is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan rejoicing in the rain in Barso re megha (Guru) under the thundering Athirapally (Athirapilly) falls, or Madhu embracing the turbulent downpour of the Hogenakkal falls in Chhoti si asha (Roja) – the cascades of the Eastern and Western Ghats have been the crowning glory of the silver screen, time and again. From Raj Kapoor and Mani Ratnam to SS Rajamouli, many iconic filmmakers have trained the spotlight on these magical waters – few can forget Zeenat Aman looking resplendent at Andhra Pradesh’s Ethipothala Falls in Kapoor’s magnum opus, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, or, a few years later, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia taking the deadly plunge at Tamil Nadu’s Hogenakkal Falls in the climactic scene of Bobby. We round up a few stunning waterfalls that have been capturing the fancy of filmmakers and tourists alike.

Western Ghats

Pykara, Tamil Nadu

The fragrance of the Nilgiris has a stirring quality. And nowhere does one realise the overwhelming intensity of this more than in Pykara. The drive to Pykara engulfs you within fragrant Nilgiri (eucalyptus) trees. Once you arrive at the fall itself, you realise that it doesn’t fit into the slot of regular waterfalls, since it is not a vertical fall. Instead, the river cascades through a tract of rocks in several terraces to a bowl-shaped, lush green valley. A little ahead is the stunning Pykara Lake, which appears out of nowhere like a picturesque canvas in divine hues. Surrounded by high mountains, shola forests, lush meadows and a gushing pool – Pykara Lake and Waterfalls are beauty incarnate.

To get there: Pykara falls is approximately 20 km to the north of Ooty.

Travel tip: Watch your step as the ground can be extremely slippery.

Athirapally (Athirapilly), Thrissur, Kerala The prelude to this stunning waterfall is bathed in green – coconut, palm, rubber and pineapple plantations – stirring even the most disinterested soul. A 2-km steep, slippery climb inside a magnificent shola forest, ably supported by croaking frogs and chirping birds, ushers you to the falls. The moment you see Athirapally (Athirapilly), you understand immediately why filmmakers keep returning to this waterfall for films like Dil Se, Guru, Raavan and Baahubali. There are many other falls within hiking distance, but none can match the energy and expanse of Athirapally (Athirapilly).

To get there: The nearest airport is Kochi. Travel tip: Ideal time to visit is mid-monsoon.

Hogenakkal, Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu The meandering course of the sedate River Cauvery through a labyrinth of high and low rocky canyons creates a misty ambience, which is the highlight of Hogenakkal, literally translating to the smoking mountains. There is no one waterfall but a series of thunderous falls through the course of the otherwise placid river. An iron bridge provides a good view if you’d rather avoid being soaked. The water, having passed through thick forests, is said to have healing properties.

To get there: Hogenakkal Falls is a few hours’ drive from Bengaluru.

Travel tip: A ride on the reed coracles that ferry people through the waters is a must-try.

Eastern Ghats

Gundichaghai, Keonjhar, Odisha

A humble yet picturesque waterfall, about 50 ft high, Gundichaghai is the life of the mineral-rich Keonjhar district in Odisha. During monsoon, the untouched sal forest gets a new coat of green, the birds sing and the ceaseless symphony of the flowing seasonal river mixes with the thunder of the waterfall to create a unique opera of nature. This is the time when the forest is at its noisiest and gorgeous best, with more than a dozen varieties of rare butterflies. At dusk, when the birds in the forest become quiet, the sound of the waterfall becomes allencompassing.

To get there: Gundichaghai is approximately 12 km from the Maa Tarini temple in Ghatgaon (Ghatagaon).

Travel tip: For accommodation, opt for Harichandanpur (5 km from the waterfall). Tarini Yatri Niwas (PWD’s Inspection Bungalow) and Panthasala by the Department of Tourism, Odisha are other accommodation options at Ghatgaon (Ghatagaon).

Barehipani and Joranda, Mayurbhanj, Odisha

Simlipal National Park in the Mayurbhanj district, home to three of India’s biggest animal species – tiger, Asian elephant and gaur – also houses the Barehipani and Joranda waterfalls. Barehipani is a two-tiered waterfall in the heart of the national park. Joranda, on the other hand, comes down into a gorge. After the rains, when the Khairi and Budhabalanga rivers run swift, the waterfalls become a blast of energy, especially after dark. And the cascades appear breathtaking in the milky whiteness of a full moon night, which you can experience with the roar of an occasional tiger, if you’re lucky.

To get there: Barehipani is a seven-hour drive from Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar.

Travel tip: A 13-seater forest department vehicle is available at Rs 5,500 per day.

Ethipothala, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh This waterfall looks straight out of a picture book – breathtaking and unbelievably scenic. Tiered in its structure, the Ethipothala falls in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh drops sharply down in several terraces, drawing its strength from River Chandravanka (a tributary of River Krishna).

To get there: The nearest airport is the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad.

Travel tip: At the foot of the waterfall, a lake houses a crocodile breeding centre.

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