Landslides are frequently occurring natural hazards in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, India, particularly during monsoon season. The present study describes the geotechnical characterization and analysis of rainfall-induced landslide that occurred at Marappalam location of Nilgiris district on November 10, 2009. The detailed investigation comprises mapping of landslide, topographical survey, field and laboratory investigations, characterization of soil and rock, and numerical analysis. Field study comprises borehole and geophysical investigations. Detailed laboratory investigation was performed to identify index and engineering properties of soil and rock. Based on the results obtained from field and laboratory investigations, the generalized subsoil profile of Marappalam slope has been plotted. The investigations revealed that loose and soft soil layer with low permeability and plasticity interspersed with boulders could be the main source of debris flow. Scanning electron microscopic analysis and x-ray diffraction analysis were performed to study the influence of weathering on slope failure. Failure mechanism of Marappalam 2009 landslide was identified from the numerical analysis performed using landslide simulation program LS-RAPID. The analysis revealed that the 5-day antecedent rainfall (303 mm) and intense rainfall on 10th November 2009 (405 mm) saturate the slope due to infiltration of rainwater. This leads to a decrease in the matric suction and subsequent development of positive pore water pressure, which in turn reduces the shear resistance of the soil along with shear displacement, and resulted in a progressive failure. © 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.