In pictures: The once-in-12-years neelakurinji blooms in India

The phenomenon turns the Anamalai Hills into a purplish blue carpet, but it only happens every 12 years. Source: Shutterstock.

IN MUNNAR, there’s a phenomenon that sweeps across the Anamalai Hills, turning the mounds into a purplish blue carpet.

The catch is, it only occurs once in 12 years.

Located in the southern portion of the Western Ghats in southern India, Anamalai Hills (also known as the Elephant Mountains) is home to lush vegetation such as coffee and tea plantations, teak forests, and dense monsoon forests including rosewood, sandalwood, and sago palms.

But also, the famed purplish blue neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana).

Neelakurinji is a tropical shrub the blossoms only once in 12 years. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.

It would take another 12 years for the seeds to sprout again, growing up to 30 to 60 centimeters in height.

Witnessing the gorgeous neelakurinji blooms in India is truly a once-in-12-years experience. Source: Shutterstock.

So far, the documented bloomings took place in 1838, 1850, 1862, 1874, 1886, 1898, 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, and 2006.

It’s so significant that the Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.

This year, the 3,000-hectare Anamalai Hills are expected to burst into generous blooms of purple and blue, and the spectacle is expected to last until October.

The event draws butterflies, honeybees, and other insects, but also curious tourists from all over the world. In fact, one million tourists, including travelers from Europe and the US, are expected to visit this amazing place this year, according to forest ranger officer Lekshmi Rajeshwari.

Take a look at why witnessing the neelakurinji blooms should be on your travel bucket list this year:

Meanwhile, the Western Ghats and Anaimalai Sub-Cluster, including the Anaimalai Hills, are currently under consideration by the Unesco World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

In anticipation of the influx of tourists, the Indian government also has plans in place to restrict the number of visitors to the Eravikulam National Park, the prime destination where neelakurinji will bloom, to protect the park.