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The Many Faces of Wayanad

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Teak tree forest 2

Pic: Teak Forest of Wayanad

“Wayanad? Where is it? What is there to see in Wayanad?” These were the questions I was most commonly asked as I prepared for my first jaunt to Wayanad. All I knew then was that it was a beautiful part of Kerala, the perfect place for a relaxed holiday. When I returned, these were the same questions I faced, again. But now, I had an answer – “There is more to see and experience than you can imagine!” What was it that so changed my answer? Was it the place? Was it the experience? Well, it was a bit of both, so the best I can do is show you the many faces of Wayanad –

To begin with, Wayanad is nestled amidst the Western Ghats, in the northern part of Kerala, sharing borders with both, Karnataka as well as Tamilnadu. The land is rich and fertile, fed by numerous mountain streams which merge into perennial rivers, chiefly among them, the Kabini. The landscape is an endless, undulating sea of green, resembling a green carpet stretched over the plains as well as the mountains. Rice is the primary cultivation. The name Wayanad itself comes from the words ‘Vayal Nadu’ which means ‘rice plantation’. However, that is not all. At areas, the hills are covered with tea plantations, while at others; every house seems to have a coffee plantation!

Pic: Tea Plantations

Pic: Tea Plantations

And here and there rise rocks, placed haphazardly over each other by nature, as if she intended them to provide some kind of change from the monotony of the green – like sculptures displayed to their best advantage!

Nature is indeed the USP of Wayanad, a fact which is only reinforced by the flora and fauna of the area. Most of the district is a protected zone, called the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Sharing borders with Nagarhole National Park and the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, this protected forest is among the biggest such in India, and provides sanctuary to numerous birds and animals, many of which are endemic to the region.

The Kuruva Island, a protected river delta in the Kabini, is an uninhabited island forest, known for its variety of flora and fauna. The bamboo filled forest is home to many species of birds, and you never know what you might see as you walk along the path open to tourists.

Pic: Phantom’s Rock.
A landmark at Wayanad, this natural rock formation seems to resemble a skull, and is easily visible from a distance
Pic: Elephant in the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary Pic: Elephant in the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary

The natural setting might be the best feature of Wayand, but its history and heritage is just as interesting. Archaeologists believe that Wayanad has been inhabited for over 300 years, which dates the civilization back to 10th century BC! The presence of ancient caves with drawings and pictorial writings attests to this fact. There is none more famous among these than the Edakkal Caves. The path to the caves takes us over boulders and between crevices, leading us to wonder how prehistoric man ever got here, but one look at the drawings, and you admire the tenacity of those who left their marks behind, for us to discover their presence.

Pic: We saw this crocodile basking in the sun at Kuruva Island

Pic: We saw this crocodile basking in the sun at Kuruva Island

The recorded history of Wayanad is comparatively recent. There are ruins of ancient temples which appear to date back to the Vijayanagar Empire.

And then there are Jain temples too, some of which are quite well preserved.

It is believed that Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan left their presence here too, and the name of the town, Sultan Battery, comes from the erstwhile ruler who used the place as his storehouse of weaponry!

More ancient however, is the Tirunelli temple, located amidst the hills, a testament to the intrepid rulers who braved the terrain to build a temple here. This ancient temple is a much visited one, considered to be the Kashi of the south, drawing pilgrims from far and wide, to this day.

Pic: The best sighting of the trip – an Indian Rock Python incubating its eggs, seen near Kuruva Island Pic: The best sighting of the trip – an Indian Rock Python incubating its eggs, seen near Kuruva Island
Pic: Edakkal Caves Pic: Edakkal Caves

In more recent times, it was the Pazhassi Raja who made a name for himself in these parts, as one among the most patriotic of rulers, fighting the British till his death. The region abounds in stories about the king, and his final resting place near Manathavady draws crowds till today.

Pic: ruined Janardhana Temple

Pic: ruined Janardhana Temple

While I am one of those who love to get lost in nature or history, I was accompanied by my son who craves excitement of a different kind. Waynad is a great place for adventure enthusiasts, offering plenty of opportunity for walking, cycling and trekking. The natural beauty of the place encourages even the most laid back of visitors to go explore, and find something that interests them. The presence of the many rivers and streams is an added plus, offering plenty of adventure options. I watched with bated breath as my 10 year old son ziplined over a mountain stream….

…. And gingerly stepped onto a simple, rudimentary bamboo raft, for a leisurely journey down the river. While just sitting in the raft was enough of an adventure for me, my son revelled in the chance to swim in a river, and, with our guide cum punter’s encouragement (reinforced by the life jacket he was forced to wear), swam along our raft…


Pic: Jain Temple Pic: Jain Temple
River Rafting.. and a bit of swimming! River Rafting

We stayed at Wayanad for three days in all, yet the memories we brought back make it seem so much more. It was a trip of many firsts for us…. to begin with, I travelled alone with my son for the very first time. And nowhere did I feel unsafe or threatened. The adventurous side was also a first for me, since I usually shy away from it. But above all, this was one of those trips where the experience triumphed over the destination.

Pic: Tirunelli Temple

Pic: Tirunelli Temp

Pic: Ziplining

Pic: Ziplining

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