The word ‘Theni’ is derived from the Tamil ‘Then’ meaning honey or nectar. A visit to Theni in Tamil Nadu is likely to remain a sweet memory for you. Theni district broke away from Madurai in 1996 and the district headquarters is the town of Theni. It is one of the most verdant and beautiful parts of the state. The paddy, cotton, and tea production is facilitated by rivers and creeks that crisscross the district. The natural beauty and cultural richness of Theni have prompted the moniker, “Earth’s Hidden Paradise”.
Not only is Theni beautiful, it is also a bustling centre for cotton trade and a region full of significant religious shrines. Theni is a historically important region. Right from the times when the Fish Flag of the Pandya Kings flew over Madurai and all neighboring regions, up to the times of Tipu Sultan’s southern campaign and the British rule, Theni has lent its brilliance to the history of the state.
How to Reach Theni
By Air: The airport closest to Theni is the Madurai Airport, located at a distance of about 85 kilometres. The airport handles both domestic and international traffic. The Coimbatore International Airport (205 kilometres away) serves many national and international destinations as well.
By Train: The nearest railway station is the one at Kodaikanal Road, about 27 kilometres from Theni. Sholavandan, at a distance of about 54 kilometres is another important train station that connects Theni with the rest of the state.
By Bus: Tamil Nadu is known for its excellent bus services. Both Tamil Nadu State Transport buses and private coaches connect Theni with all important cities in the state, including Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem and Tirunelveli.
Places To Visit in and around Theni
Meghamalai (75 km from Theni), literally translated into Cloud Mountain, is one of the most green and verdant parts of Tamil Nadu. Apart from the sprawling tea gardens, the wildlife sanctuary here is worth visiting. Gaur, elephants, barking deer, boars, bears, foxes, and otters are sighted here. Over 100 species of birds are found in this wildlife sanctuary.
Suruli Falls (56 km from Theni) is a beautiful cascading waterfall that you will want to visit. Tourists often bathe in the waters which are said to have healing properties. The caves near the Suruli Falls are classic examples of the superlative rock architecture of early Tamils.
Kumbakkarai Falls (23 km from Theni) on Pambar River was developed by Thiru K Chellam Iyer, a generous resident of the region. The beautiful staged falls and the natural rock formations in the vicinity are a must-visit.
Seran’s Fun Park in Periyakulam (4 km from Theni) is an exciting amusement park, especially alluring for the children. Apart from the rides, the laser show, Aqua Cave aquarium, and open-air theatre are very popular.
Sothuparai Dam (25 km from Theni) across the Varaha River is a great picnic spot. During the monsoons, the sight of the overflowing dam is a magnificent one. This is the second highest dam in the state.
Theni is best known for its small but beautiful temples. A number of them are believed to hold much religious significance and attract devotees from all over the state. Some of the important ones include:
- Sri Gowmariamman Temple – Dedicated to the Goddess Ambica, this temple hosts a number of important festivals in the months of Chithirai, Aadi and Thai. The goddess is said to cure her devotees of measles and chickenpox.
- Sri Saneeswara Baghwan Temple – Dedicated to Saturn, one of the nine planets, this is an important pilgrimage destination.
- Sri Arulmigu Balasubramanya Temple – Kartikeya is one of the important deities worshiped in South India. This temple, dedicated to the God in his child form, hosts a number of important festivals as well.
Cotton Trade in Theni
Theni is called the Second Manchester of South India. This is due to the roaring cotton trade and industry in the city. Theni produces some of the softest and best quality cotton products in the country. The indigenously manufactured sarees, towels, bed and bath products, vests and similar products are often exported to foreign countries. Do not forget to look up and buy yourself some beautiful silk cotton sarees and soft linen during your visit to Theni. The cottons of Theni often rival the cotton products manufactured in Coimbatore.
Best Time to Visit Theni
Theni is great to visit any time of the year. The summers are not as hot as the rest of the state, thanks to the presence of abundant greenery and many rivers. Winters, however, are the best time to visit this part ofTamil Nadu. Winter monsoons ensure that the temperatures are mild and the waterfalls overflowing. Summer monsoons make the town humid and do not have quite the same effect. The Tamil months of Thai, Chithirai, and Aadi are best for tourists wanting to visit the region to participate in the grand temple festivals held here.
The Chithirai Thiruvizha (festival) of Sri Gowmariamman Temple is a grand 8-day celebration held in May. Womenfolk wear yellow and red and cook sweet pongal in earthen pots on open flames. Devotees go around the temple holding a fire pot as part of their obeisance. The Karagam dance and ritual ‘Kavadi’ lifting add to the fervency.
Pongal is the time for domestic and community celebrations in Theni. The bullock cart races held during the Pongal days are a spectacular event. The district was famous for its many Jallikattu (bull fights) events before they were banned.
Like the rest of Tamil Nadu, Aadi Perkuku is a month-long celebration that showcases the best of family bonding and religious devotion in Theni. Tamil New Year (mid April) day also is a day for many cultural programmes and temple festivities.