Nestled against the mighty Western Ghats, at the southern tip of the Deccan Plateau, the untamed beauty of Wayanad never once fails to amaze. At altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 metres above sea level, the land is picture perfect with its undulating hillocks, lush evergreen forests, and verdant coffee and spice plantations in the hills. The district is said to derive its name from the vast expanse of paddy fields (vayal) which cover the land (naadu).
Spread across 2, 132 square kilometers, Wayanad is said to have shied away from the effects of civilization holding intact its pristine beauty. The verdant hills border Madumalai in Tamil Nadu and Bandipur on one side and the Tholpetty Wildlife sanctuary and Nagarhole on the other side forming one of the largest mass of land inhabited by wildlife in the country by diverse flora and fauna, some of them endemic to the region.
Woodlands, hills and valleys grace the region striking travelers with picture perfect moments on the one. Equally enticing is its rich history. Historians are of the view that life existed in these parts at least ten centuries before Christ, notably in regions around Ambukuthimala. The prehistoric engravings on the Edakkal caves are testimony to a time that left its mark on this green paradise.
For a very long time, Wayanad was inhabited by tribals. Recorded history from the 18thcentuary state the Rajas of Vedar as the earliest rulers who were later replaced by the Kottayam Rajas of which was the valiant Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja of Kottayam. Under a truce made with the British during the siege of Srirangapatanam, Tipu Sultan, the then ruler of Mysore, handed over Wayanad to the British. What followed was an ensuing battle between the British and the Rajas, which the invaders won in 1805. Even today, the tomb of the Pazhassi at Manthavady stands as a reminder of that piece of history.
At 76km from the coastal region of Kozhikode and the upcoming international airport of Cannanore in vicinity, Wayanad shares proximity to touristy areas like Ooty, Mysore, Bangalore, Coorg, Kannur and Tellichery ensuring that it enjoys the status of a much preferred tourist destination.
Previously a part of the Kozhikode, Kalpetta is the trading town of Wayanad. Coffee, pepper or ginger, nothing goes out of Wayanad till it passes the myriad trade and commerce bazaars of Kalpetta. Kalpetta is less than an hour’s drive from Pugmarks.
This pretty place is a summary of what Wayanad has to offer. The sylvan surrounding filled with lakes, gorges, and waterfalls is a dream destination for many. Though transportation in these parts is limited, the mushrooming resorts are proof of the charm Vythiri exudes.
In movies of yesteryears, the charming hero would have whisked away his bashful lady love to paddle away in a boat during a song sequence. The mellow and romantic setting around Pookot Lake will remind you of the same. Boating and horse riding are much favoured by families, especially during the summer.
The majestic sight of the Soochipara Falls or Sentinel Rock Falls as it takes a three-pronged jump to the needle sharp granite rocks is one to behold. Though the ascent up is unsafe given to the slippery rocks, a suitable point at a distance allows you to enjoy the breathtaking sight.
As lost as you may be among the natural attractions, take time to visit the famous Chain Tree at Lakkidi. Commonly known as the Weeping Fig, this tree, according to local lore, tells the story of treachery, vengeance and exorcism. Vythiri is an hour’s drive from Pugmarks.
The biggest town and business center of Wayanad, SulthanBathery is quite unlike its famed counterparts. Bathery is the corruption of battery as the lore goes that Tipu Sultan used a ruined Jain temple to dump his ammunition. Hence Suthan’s Battery became SulthanBathery. Before the Sulthan’s exploits, Bathery was known as Ganapathivattam.
The 13th century Bathery temple is said to have sevred as a shrine, then a commercial complex before the Sulthan decided to use it as his ammunition store. The granite structure is known for its exquisite designs influenced by the architectural style of the Vijayanagara dynasty.
During the 1980s when archaeologists discovered the cave writing in Edakkal Caves, artefacts and relics were found from adjoining areas and those around Bathery and Ambalavayal. Soon with participation from locals and colleges, antiquities, archaic implements of daily life and tribal weapon were sourced and are now displayed at the Wayanad Heritage Museum. Known as the best heritage museum in Kerala, the museum houses some of the rare engravings, relics, figurines and crypts from the 13th and 14th centuries. Sultan Bathery is an hour’s drive from Pugmarks.
When it comes to tuskers, nothing can promise an encounter remarkable enough as at Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. Roughly 16 km east of SulthanBathery, and bordering Nagarhole National Park and Bandipur Tiger Reserve, the 365 sq. km of area comes under Project Elephant. The elephant herds going about their duty is a common sighting here. Tigers, various species of deer, monkeys and birds are also occasionally spotted. Elephant rides are organized by the Forest Department.
On the banks of MananthavadyPuzha (Mananthavady River), a tributary of Kabini, stands the beautiful town of Mananthavady. The town was once the seat of the Pazhassi dynasty and still evokes memories of the great warrior, Pazhassi Raja. With Mysore and Coorg just a few hundred kilometers away, Mananthavady is the gateway for those coming in from Karnataka.
The exploits of a local chieftain is every child’s bedtime story, not only in Wayanad but also throughout the state. Pazhassi Raja’s name is still written in history as the one who employed guerilla warfare against the British. Over nine years, Raja gave the English a hard time. Finally he was betrayed by one of his own. But refusing to be caught alive, Pazhassi swallowed his diamond ring putting a halt to the rebellion. So impressed were the British with the valour of Pazhassi that he was given a 21 gun-salute and was cremated in Mananthavady on November 30th, 1805. Right next to his tomb is the Pazhassi Museum that houses stone inscriptions, swords, Kurichiya weapons and Pazhassi memorabilia.
32 km from Mananthavady, in a valley surrounded by the scenic panorama of the Brahmagiri hills is the Thirunelli temple. The famous Vishnu temple is said to have been consecrated by Lord Brahma, the creator, himself. Known to have been a pilgrim center from the time of Chera dynasty, devotes still dock to the temple as the belief is that visits and prayers offered here can wash away sins. Prayer and ceremonies held here for the departed are also meant to give the lasting salvation. At the base of the temple flows the rivulet, Papanashini. The centuries old system to bring in water to the temple from the Brahmagiri hills is an engineering marvel.
Not too far from the temple is the Brahmagiri hills, which is said to have captivated Lord Brahma with its unmatchable beauty. Legend has it that it was hills that drew Brahma to construct the Thirunelli temple. As you behold the hovering cotton clouds casting their shadow on the far stretch of green, you would know why Thirunelli draws not just the faithful.
At 32 km from Mananthavady and at an altitude of 1740 meters above sea level is Pakshipathalam. Though the spot offers several trekking options, prior permission is required from the forest department. Saints and godmen are said to have taken shelter in the surrounding caves and this has added tourist value to the region. Abound in natural rock caves, gorgeous brooks, and steep hills, the serenity; Pakshipathalam is ideal for bird watching.
The surrounding peaks are ideal for trekking. The forest range spreads across Iruppu Falls in neighbouring state of Karnataka. The fresh water cascade not only attracts tourists but also pilgrims especially during Shivarathri.
The Thriselleri temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is linked to the Thirunelli temple as it is believed that performance of rites remains incomplete until followed by offerings at the Thrisellleri. The shrine of Shiva is sees a rise in the number of devotees especially during Mahashivarathri, celebrated in March. Close by is the shrine of JalaDurga where the deity is believed to be installed by Paraurama himself.
Wildlife that has been spotted in the parts around Kuruvadweep includes the ones at Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary. Encounters with elephants, wild gaurs, wild Asiatic dogs, deers and tigers are common in these parts. The sanctuary is contiguous with Nagarhole in Karnataka.
(c) 2012 Pugmarks Wayanad