Hyderabad to Nirmal: Of waterfalls and forts

Deserted forts and beautiful waterfalls make for stunning silver-screen locations

The Kuntala Waterfall. Photographs: Lakshmi Prabhala
The Kuntala Waterfall. Photographs: Lakshmi Prabhala

As a zealous movie patron, I fervently look forward to releases, both for entertainment as well as coveted places that the location managers of films seem to find time and again. They never fail to home in on the most enchanting meadows, groves full of trees and cascading waterfalls that make for stunning backdrops.

When the Telugu blockbuster Rani Rudramadevi released in theatres last year, my brother and I wanted to know where it had been shot. We discovered that the spot chosen for this period film was the Kuntala Waterfall in Nirmal, 227km from Hyderabad. At 147ft, it’s the highest waterfall in Telangana. 

We planned a road trip at the onset of the monsoon. For a more comfortable trip, however, we were told it would be better to go just after the rains. In addition to the more amenable temperature and lush green cover, the Sahyadris ensure that streams trickle down the hills and breathe life into the waterfall after a harsh summer.

We started early on a Saturday morning, making sure we had enough time for some interesting pit stops. The first break was at the famous 14th century temple, Dichpally Khilla Ramalayam, in Nizamabad district (159km from Hyderabad), built by the Kakatiyas. We climbed the 105 steps to the shrine dedicated to the Hindu god Ram, and found exquisite carvings, with a few erotic sculptures on the walls. Small wonder that it has been given the moniker of “Khajuraho of south India”.

When we reached Nirmal, 68km from Dichpally village, we stopped first at the Nirmal Toys and Arts Industrial Cooperative Society showroom to shop for souvenirs. The outlet extends into a spacious workshop that acquaints visitors with the process of making wooden toys. The locally available tella poniki, or soft wood, is the base material, while chinta lappam, a mixture of sawdust and boiled tamarind seeds, is the binding agent. Amid neatly arranged rows of carved wooden blocks left to dry sat artisans from the Naqash community, chiselling the wood and applying coats of paint on the blocks, keeping the 400-year-old tradition alive.

An artisan making wooden toys
An artisan making wooden toys

The stop was a short one, since we planned to visit Neredigonda village and then the Kuntala Waterfall.

The waterfall can be seen from two vantage points and the upper portion can be accessed by a 10-minute walk from the entry point. This is a risky approach, for it involves following the path of the water on its rocky bed till it falls off the edge. The other, safer option is to see the waterfall from the base. We chose to attempt the more intrepid route first, but didn’t dare peep over the edge.

However, the magnificent waterfall also demands a view from its base, 408 steps down a tree-lined path. It was worth the trek to listen to the roar of the water and feel the water drops on our cheek as the mammoth white sheet bathed the surroundings in a light mist. Rejuvenated mentally but tired physically, we decided to explore the rest of Nirmal the following day.

Nirmal and its surrounding areas are home to four forts, which protected the flourishing iron foundries that supplied heavy artillery to the army of nizam Srinivas Rao in the 17th century. These hilltop military forts, which can all be explored in one day, were built during his rule.

We had time enough to saunter through the fort that takes its name from the town—both were French strongholds at one time. Going past the bushy undergrowth and worn-down steps, we climbed to the top, and were treated to scenic views of the town. 

As we drove past the deserted and dilapidated strongholds of the Shyamgarh and Battisgarh forts, within the town limits, we could not ignore their quiet and stately presence. We wondered if they too had been discovered for the silver screen.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The writer tweets at @lakshmiprabhala. 

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