Sonagiri Lake on West Side of Arunachala


On the west side of Arunachala, between Girivalam Road and the Inner Path, lies one of the beauties of Arunachala, one that is rarely seen by visitors, since it is off the road and path. This is the Sonagiri Lake

Here is a photo from when the lake is full of water.


Sonagiri Lake is shown in blue on the map below. Also shown on the map are the inner path in red, the Girivalam Road (Pradkashina Road) in orange, Inner Path access routes in green, and small footpaths through the forest, in yellow. One other area, unknown to most people, is the Sonagiri Forest, in dark green.

The Sonagiri name comes from the color of the west side of Arunachala in the golden light of the setting sun. Sonagiri means “Golden Hill.”

ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 08 15.26

I thought the best way to show the lake is through the use of photos taken at different times. The lake is really a water catchment basin, used to catch rainwater so that it can soak back into the underground water table. Consequently the lake has different amounts of water in it, depending on the recent rain fall. During the hot dry months it is empty of water.

I am not sure of the age of the lake. It, along with the Northside Basin, are the two oldest catchment basins around the mountain. The Sonagiri Lake is the most effective of all of these, capturing the most water of any of them. 

To show you this area, I use several sets of photos, taken at different times with different levels of water. All were taken early in the day, before 8 AM.

From 1 January 2012.


Parvati Hill from the lake area.




The lake is pretty full.


At the north end of the lake are broad leaf tree, planted like in an orchard. These were planted by the big government planting in the 1980s. They were planted at the same time as the tall trees that are seen in big groves in several others places around the mountain. The Lake was made before these trees were planted it looks like to me. These trees flourish only in places with more water, like this lake. They drop many leaves each year, and so are great for building up the soil.


Here is the lake on 20 January 2012.

Looking at it from the south end. The water level has gone down in the weeks since the last photos.





Arunachala Parvati Hill peeks through the trees.



There is still some water in the north end of the lake. The lake when full is more than 1/2 km long.


One of the waterbirds that are found here.


Flying away.



18 October 2012

We often have September rains. These start to fill the lake. Arunachala reflected in the waters of the lake.

Arunachala reflected in Sonagiri tank 18-10-2012_01

5 December 2012

The grasses around the lake are pretty high, from many weeks of rain and moisture.


Usually our dogs go with me. This is Freckles.


The lake is partially filled. At this stage it seems like two lakes, one in the south and one in the north.



A better photo of Freckles.


A waterbird. What are these? Does anyone know?


Pretty full now. Notice the rocks that stick out of the water, in the center of the photo, to the right of the leftmost clump of trees? Remember these as a landmark.


Looking toward Parvati Hill.


These rocks are a good way to tell just how full the lake is. At its highest, they are submerged. I have only seen it that high once.


On the west side of the lake there is a dirt berm maybe 10-15 feet high. Atop the berm is one of the nicest paths in this part of the forest, about 1 km long and level. With my clippers I try to keep this path well trimmed.

Often I will meet monkeys. The Macaque monkeys, who seem like beggars when they are by the road, are like wild monkeys here. They will watch as we move through the forest.


Here is the berm path.


25 December 2012

More cloudy and overcast today. Here is Arunachala on Christmas Morning, 2012.




The lake still has plenty of water in it.


Langur monkeys are with us today. They are my favorites.

The berm path, again. This is where I usually see the monkeys.


14 September 2013.

The rains have come. Arunachala across the lake.


27 September 2014

The lake is not very full, but is has some water from recent rains.


The rocks that were almost submerged in the earlier photo are not touched by the water.




A creek come into the south end of the lakes through these trees.


The rocks stand high and dry.


Looking north over the end of the upper lake in the south.


Parvati Hill again.


Arunachala, hard to see in the photo, backlit by the morning sun.


The grove at the north end of the lake.




I use the berm path to go back to our house.



The path comes out on the north end to a big grove of the tall trees, planted at the same time as the ones in the lake.


10 October 2014

Arunachala in the early morning from the lake area.


It is hard to see Arunachala clearly through the morning mist.


There is that rock again, far out of the water.


Looking from the southmost end of the lake. Water, but not too much.


At the very south end of the lake there is an overflow made, so the water can get out safely if the water gets too high. Stones set in the ground protect it from erosion.


A creek delivers its waters into the south end of the lake.




The south end of the lake is pretty full at this part of it. 


Here is our rock again, far above the water. If you look closely you may notice a row of stone lingams someone set out here.


Now some pretty white flowers have started blooming near the lake.


The north end of the lake.


A porcupine quill. You will see these here. Sometimes there are many, as if two porcupines got into a fight (of maybe were making love). I have never seen a porcupine; I think they are out only at night.

Beside monkeys and porcupines and water birds I have seen many spotted deer, rabbits, snakes, wild pigs, quail-like ground birds, and squirrels here.


The north end of the lake as it floods the grove of trees.


This creek feeds into the north end.


Sonagiri Lake is a favorite place among the few people who know that it is here. To find it, about 1 KM from where Girivalam Road turns off from Bangalore Road, there is a section of dark forest to the right with a barbed wire fence. This is Sonagiri Forest. Right after where this fence stops there are small paths to go into the forest. Follow them into the forest. After you cross the fence take the path the the right. Then you will see a long path that goes toward Arunachala. Follow it until you reach the berm. Take the berm path to the right. Of course, there may or not be water in the lake, depending on the season.

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12 Responses to “Sonagiri Lake on West Side of Arunachala”

  1. Lalitha Ramesh Says:

    Richard, Thank you for these wonderful pictures. Next time during Giripradakshinam I should look for the Sonagiri lake.

  2. richardramanarocksforever Says:

    Oh that is so very thoughtful of you Dear Richard to ensure that Freckles will be taken care of. You are a truly blessed soul

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Well, Freckles is certainly a friend. Since we are together in the morning on our walks near Arunachala, maybe an average of 1.5 hours, more than 1000 times, I have spend more time with the doggies in the last few years than with anyone else other than mu wife. So it is natural to want to see that they are taken care of. Since she and her sister, P{ipi, are outside dogs, and still live in the neighborhood of their birth, they are well known here, and whatever I do, they will be fed by local friends, I was not worried about their survival. My biggest concern is to make sure that they can keep walking Arunachala. And hopefully they will be able to.

  3. marilynsandperl Says:

    Beautiful photographs, Richard. What a lovely hidden gem! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Thanks Marilyn. You can see why I wanted to show this hidden gem to others. Hope you are doing well.

  4. richardramanarocksforever Says:

    Speaking of Freckles, all your adopted pets will miss you when you leave India and so I will!

    Fantastic work:)

    I have always wondered how you manage to be so organized in presenting your work. I mean they process is out-rightly tedious and painstaking before shaping up into one of your beautiful blog article.

    We are so impressed and will miss you and Carol for sure. I hope to make it to Tiru one fine day and wish to meet you folks in person and say a Hello and thank you for all that you have been doing for us.

    Much Love 🙂

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      We have made sure that Freckles will be taken care of, and, hopefully, can continue her walks around Arunachala. She has been in the Arunachala forest and on the inner path more than 1000 times and this is her favorite thing.

  5. Sathyan S Says:

    Thanks Mr.Richard for the beautiful photos. There is an element of mystery in it. Please do post more photos of various plants ,flowers, animals, birds and caves in that area.

  6. mysticresearcher Says:

    Is the place safe, any farming happening around the area, any small roads leading to this lake.

    • Richard Clarke Says:

      Area is safe, I have been in it hundreds of times. Farming is not in this area. Leading to the lake are footpaths, as I show on the map and described at the end of the post.

  7. tskraghu Says:

    Enjoyed seeing the photographs. Thanks. Any fruit bearing trees?

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