Kolli Hills is a small mountain range located in central Tamil Nadu in India. The mountains are about 1000 to 1300 m in height and cover an area of approximately 280 km². The Kolli Hills are part of the Eastern Ghats, which is a mountain range that runs mostly parallel to the east coast of South India. The mountains are relatively untouched by tourism and still retain their natural beauty. They were sometimes known as “Kolli Moloi”, the “Mountains of Death”, due to the many diseases there such as malaria.
Tucked away between the Pachaimalai and Kalrayan hill ranges of the Eastern Ghats in South India, Kolli Hills (or Kollimalai, in Tamil) is indeed a remarkable spot in Tamil Nadu. Unlike man-made Ooty and Kodai, Kolli Hills is traditional hill country, the land of friendly tribes, and a part of the erstwhile kingdom of Valvil Ori, a Tamil king who was renowned for his generosity and valour. Formed in the shape of an open square, these hills were also known as Chathuragiri, literally meaning square-shaped hills.
Located at an ever-so-pleasant altitude ranging from 1000 to 1300 metres above mean sea level, Kolli hills enjoys a salubrious climate throughout the year. This fertile pocket in Namakkal district is where exotic tropical fruits and medicinal plants grow in plenty. The land is still relatively untouched by time, with 16 quaint little tribal villages that once constituted the hill kingdom of Ori. Much of the charm of this hill country still remains. For if you can’t stand the milling crowds of Ooty and Kodai, this surely is one place where you can head to for a quiet holiday.
There are many such legends and interesting myths associated with these hills, which make it all the more interesting and worth visiting. The drive up the 70-hairpin bend Ghat road is truly an enjoyable experience. Contrary to ones expectations, the Ghat road here is quite wide and well-laid, thanks to the tribal welfare funds allotted by the government. The road winds through 13 miles of beautiful scenery and thick forests, where you could pause just to take in the fresh mountain air, or just stop and stare at the monkeys, mongooses or squirrels that frolic on the hillsides. But hairpin bends are frequent and plenty, so it would be wise to be cautious while driving.
The resident Malayalis (literally meaning people of the hills) are a friendly, sturdy and hard-working people, who generally keep to themselves. They constitute about 95% of the total population of these sparsely populated hills. Researchers feel that these were not the people who lived here during King Ori’s time. The early natives were primarily hunters-gatherers, while the present tribes could have migrated from the plains, bringing farming and agriculture with them.