The Agasthyamalai Hills also called the Ashambu Hills, lie at the extreme southern end of the Western Ghats mountain range along the western side of South India. There are at least 26 peaks over 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) among these hills. The hills are notable as the habitat for over 2,000 species of medicinal plants and as the abode of the Vedic sage Agasthya, founder of the Siddhar practitioners of Rasayana herbal medicine, who is often depicted holding a mortar and pestle.
These hills contain areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. The hills contain outstanding examples of ecosystems and communities of plants and animals representing significant ecological and biological processes. The area contains important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including forests containing threatened species of outstanding value to science and conservation.
The hills straddle both sides of the state border Kollam District and Thiruvananthapuram District in Kerala and Tirunelveli District and Kanyakumari District in Tamil Nadu. They are between the Cardamom Hills and Aryankavu Pass at NH-208 about 9° north latitude and the vicinity of the Mahendragiri peak near Kanyakumari at about 8° 20' north latitude. The border between the two States is defined by a jagged high ridge, that runs from north to south and then slightly eastwards, parallel to and about 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of the Kerala shore of the Arabian Sea.
These hills are dominated by the 1,868 metres (6,129 ft) Agasthyamalai peak. The five-peaked mountain Ainthuthalai Pothigai (1,862 metres (6,109 ft)) immediately adjacent to Agasthyamalai, is only a little shorter. Other nearby peaks are Cherumunji Mottai and Naga Pothigai (
8°35′38″N 77°17′10″E) (1,600 metres (5,200 ft)). There are at least 23 more peaks over 1,600 metres (5,200 ft).
The hills receive up to 5,000 millimetres (200 in) annual rainfall from both the southwest and northeast monsoons and has a very short dry season of January to March. The topography is rugged with many perennial hill streams originating in the tropical rainforests on the upper slopes. These streams merge to form several important rivers. The Kerala rivers Kallada, Achankoil, Vamanapuram, Karamana and Neyyar drain west from these hills. The Thamirabarani River and its tributaries the Ramanadhi River and the Manimuthar River in Tamil Nadu are significant perennial rivers flowing east from these hills.
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trivandrum, kerala, india