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| Last Updated:: 20/09/2023

Agasthiya malai



A view of the Agasthyamalai Range


Located in the Western Ghats in the south of the country, the Agasthiya malai has peaks reaching 1,868 m above sea level. Consisting mostly of tropical forest, the site is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic. It is also a unique genetic reservoir of cultivated plants, in particular cardamom, jamune, nutmeg, pepper and plantain. Three wildlife sanctuaries, Shendurney, Peppara and Neyyar, are located in the site, as well as the Kalakad Mundanthurai tiger reserve.



The Agasthiya malai Biosphere Reserve (ABR) was established in 2001 and is spread across the two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.



India's "unique" Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve is among 20 new sites added by the UN's top cultural body UNESCO to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves in March 2016.


Agasthya Koodam Trek Route



Ecological Characteristics

The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve covers 3,500 km2 and encompasses tropical forest ecosystems that fall within the Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu and the Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts of Kerala, southern India. It hosts one of the most diverse ecosystems in peninsular India and constitutes an important biogeographical ‘hot spot’ within the Western Ghats.



The reserve is home to about 79 species of mammals of which 20 are endemic, 88 species of reptiles of which 45 are endemic, 45 species of amphibians of which 30 species are endemic and 46 species of fishes including 10 endemics. A total of 337 species of birds have also been reported of which 20 are endemic.



Murthy of Agasthyamuni at the top


Socio-economic characteristics

Agasthiya malai is also home to the Kani tribes from both Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which number in total approximately 30,000 inhabitants. The community uses a wide variety of biological resources for sustenance but is rarely involved in their commercialization. In addition, about 700 non-tribal inhabitants live on tea estates located in the core area.



The Agasthyamalai occupies a prominent place in the cultural heritage and history of India. It is a pilgrimage centre for devotees of the Hindu sage Agastya, who is considered to be one of the seven rishis (Saptarishi) of Hindu Puranas. In Tamil traditions, Agastya is considered as the father of the Tamil language and the compiler of the first Tamil grammar called Agattiyam or Akattiyam. and also the Malayalam language is considered to be born from Agasthya. There is a small stone statue of Agathiyar at the top of the peak and the devotees can offer pujas themselves.



In particular, its prominence in the epic Ramayana has made it a famous site for Hindu pilgrimages.


Folk Performance of Kani Tribe