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Kerala's Wayanad - the green paradise of India
Wayanad is a small district in the state of Kerala in India. It is set high on the Western Ghats mountain range with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 m. Unlike many of the hill resorts, Wayanad is not a small town or a village. It is a district and the entire district is a popular tourist destination. Enchanting waterfalls, fog covered hills, rain soaked valleys, busy streams, rivers studded with little islands, evergreen forests, spice gardens, wild life sanctuaries, bird sanctuaries, villages of aborigines… Yes, it’s altogether a different world, away from the maddening crowd, yet easily approachable by road.
The first thing which will attract any tourist here is the lush greenery all around. No wonder why Wayanad is also known as the green paradise. The soil and the climate are excellent for agriculture. In the local Malayalam language, the term Wayanad means land of paddy fields (Vayal nadu). Rice, Pepper, cardamom, coffee and tea are the major crops. Here, it rains almost daily. Lakkidi, which gets one of the highest degrees of rainfall in the world, is in Wayanad. Agriculture and Tourism are the two main sources of income. There are no major industries nearby and the atmosphere is totally clean, with virtually no pollution.
One destination, many reasons
Every year, thousands of tourists visit Wayanad for a variety of reasons. For ordinary tourists, this place is a very popular hill station. Archeologists, anthropologists and historians consider Wayanad as a goldmine of information. Different species of birds living inside the cave on top of a hill in Pakshipathalam attract ornithologists from all over. The wild life sanctuaries in Wayanad give an excellent opportunity to watch tropical wild animals in their natural habitats. The Kuruva Island in the Kabani River is an excellent picnic spot. The Thirunelly temple inside the deep forest is a very sacred place for the Hindus. For both ordinary and adventure loving trekkers, Wayanad is a real paradise. The list is endless.
The capital of Wayanad is Kalpetta. There are several good hotels and home-stays in Kalpetta. The nearest city is Kozhikode (Calicut) which is about 78 kms away from Kalpetta and the nearest airport – the Kozhikode international airport - is about 106 kms away. National highway 212 from Kozhikode to Kollegal (via Mysore) passes through Kalpetta.
Manathavadi (Manantody) and Batheri (Sultan Batheri) are the other two major towns in Wayanad.
Generally, the climate here is very pleasant. During summer (March to May), the temperature goes up to 35°C (95°F) and in winter (December to February), it comes down to 07°C (45°F). It rains heavily during the South West monsoon (June to September) and the North East monsoon (October to November) seasons. The annual average rainfall is 2,500 millimeters (98”).
Places of attraction
Some of the important places of attraction are listed below. But remember, this list is not comprehensive.
One of the most favorite picnic spots in Wayanad. It is a fairly large lake in the middle of an evergreen forest. Boating is the major attraction. Walking through the pathway surrounding the lake, braving the never-ending drizzle, will be an unforgettable experience.
Right in the middle of Kabani River, there is a group of tiny islands. These islands are called Kuruva islands. In fact, this is a very fragile delta system and the total area of this delta is about 950 acres. Walking through the river, from one island to another will be an unforgettable experience. For taking you to the first island, a wooden raft is in service.
Kanthanpara Water Falls, Meenmutty Water Falls & Soochippara Water Falls
A visit to these falls will be an exciting one. Exercise extreme caution while walking through the slippery rocks.
These caves, near the Ambukuthimala, are famous for its pre-historic carvings and paintings. It is on the top of a hill. Several paintings and pictorial writings from the Stone Age Period can be seen here.
Tomb of Pazhashi Raja
This is the tomb of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (Kerul Varma Pyche Rajah, Cotiote Rajah, Lion of Kerala) (1753 –1805) who was a brave and illustrious ruler in the Malabar region of Kerala.
This is a bird sanctuary, situated at an altitude of 1740m, located in the Brahmagiri Hills near Thirunelly. You can see several species of birds here. There is also a cave here, which is believed to be used by saints for meditation in ancient times. This place is accessible only by trekking and a trek to this place will be both exciting and challenging for any adventure loving tourist.
Tholppetty Wild Life Sanctuary
A trip to this wild life sanctuary will be an unforgettable experience. Several types of tropical wild animals can be seen during a jeep safari through the forest. The bumpy jeep journey through the forest itself will be an unforgettable experience.
Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary
This wild life sanctuary is about 20 Kms from Sultan Bathery. It is also a major centre of attraction. Elephants, bison, bear, deer, monkeys and several types of birds can be seen here.
This is a very famous Hindu temple. Lord Vishnu is the presiding deity. People go there mainly for doing the last rites (Bali tharpanam) of their loved ones and pray for their departed souls. Since no cremation is done here, as in the case of Varanasi, the surroundings are quite neat and clean. Just by the side of the temple, there is a mountain spring called Papanaasini which is also a pilgrim centre.This temple is in the midst of a wild life sanctuary and you can see a lot of wild animals, including tuskers, en route to the temple. If you are going there by public transport, make sure that you do not miss the last bus. Of course, there are a few small rooms available near the temple but please have a look before making the payment.
This temple at Kottamunda, located 20 Kms from Kalpetta, is dedicated to the Paraswanatha Swamy, the third Thirthankara of the Jain faith. The inner walls of this temple are fitted with several mirrors and they reflect images of Parswanatha Swamy in thousands of beautiful patterns.
Wayanad Heritage Museum
Wayanad has a very rich and glorious heritage. It has given very valuable insights in the areas of both archeology and anthropology. Archeological surveys reveal that the forests of Wayanad have been inhabited for more than three thousand years. Numerous evidences about the Stone Age period can be seen here. Even today, about 1/5th of the population in Wayanad district belongs to tribal communities (aborigines). The Kurichiyas, the valiant warriors of the late King Pazhassi Raja, hail from Wayanad. They were very famous for their guerrilla style warfare. Their descendants are still expert archers. The Wayanad heritage museum gives us a golden opportunity to understand the life of these people and also their rich and eventful history which, undoubtedly, is the history of India itself.
This dam is used for irrigation and generating electricity. The surroundings are extremely scenic. You can either take a walk over the dam or hire a jeep. A speed boat service is also available in the reservoir area.
As I have already mentioned, this list is not a comprehensive one. There are several other spots worth mentioning. For more details visit www.wayanad.nic.in
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (Kerul Varma Pyche Rajah, Cotiote Rajah, Lion of Kerala) (1753 –1805) was an illustrious ruler belonging to the Kottayam dynasty in the Malabar region of Kerala. He was an expert in the guerilla style warfare. He fought several battles against the mighty English East India Company inflicting heavy casualties on their side. In 1797, the Company sued for peace. In 1800, battle again broke out and after a series of guerrilla battles Pazhassi Raja was killed in 1805. He was a very righteous and brave fighter. The British treated Raja’s body with due respect and arranged for cremation with full honors.Later, a tomb was built at the site where his body was cremated.
Mr. T.H Babar, the then British sub collector, wrote the following words in his report. “I was induced to this conduct from the consideration that, although a rebel, he was one of the natural chieftains of the country, and might be considered on that account rather as a fallen enemy”.
“Thus terminated the career of a man who has been enabled persevere in hostilities against the Company for near nine years, during which many thousand valuable lives have been sacrificed and sums of all money beyond all calculation expended.”
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja and his heroic deeds will never be forgotten and even today, people visit his tomb in large numbers to pay their homage.
Hero Stones are erected in memory of the soldiers who laid down their lives fighting for the country. This has three parts. The bottom one shows the soldier in action (fighting with a wild animal as in this case). He dies in action and in the second picture the dead soldier’s departed soul is being received by the Apsaras in heaven. According to Hindu mythology, Apsaras are the beautiful, supernatural female dancers residing in heaven. In the top most picture, God (Lord Krishna in this case), surrounded by Apsaras, is shown as waiting in anticipation of the dead hero. The hero stone shown in this photo is from the 14th century.