Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pazhassi Raja’s Tomb

Wayanad trips were started since the college days. It was much like an excursion, whenever I travelled to the house of my dearest friend Sunil Thomas in Manathavadi, Still I do the same trips, with the same feel.

The incoming to Wayand itself, rejuvenates body as well as mind .The novel feel would be characteristic of the climate, which is not so hot. It seems Wayand would be having the lowest temperatures, among other districts of Kerala.

There is a place which I often visit in my Manathavadi trips, without fail. It is the Tomb of Pazhassi. It is situated in Mananthavadi town, near to government hospital and village office. It was near to the Pazhassi tomb, where I used to paint the town red in evenings, with some friends in Manathavadi.

Years ago, when I first saw tomb of Pazhassi, it didn’t had these boundary walls. It only had a big tree and a floor. The tree that was planted on the grave had grown lofty with its roots covering the grave. But the tree had fallen in due course of time. It seems if our government had shown a bit more concern for the place, it could have been better protected.

Pazhassi Raja, who also known as Brave Lion of Kerala (Veerakeralasimham) had his glorious death on November 30th 1805, at a place called Mavilamthodu, while he was vehemently combating with the marauding forces using guerilla warfare. (Pazhassi Raja fought with British forces, records say that before the conflicts with British, he had confrontations with Tippu Sultan of Mysore). Many other possibilities are also popularly acclaimed as the cause of his death, such as Pazhassi Raja committed suicide to not to get caught by British forces by swallowing diamond or so. Who knows the fact! However, historical records says that Pazhassi raja was homicided by gunshots of British troops.

A film about Pazhassi Raja has to be released recently. Renowned Malayli crew is behind the venture, screenplay by M.T Vasudevan Nair, directed by Hariharan and Mammooty plays the role of Pazhassi Raja. M.T would have done an exhaustive research for writing the script. Even if the film may have all the typical commercial ingredients, let’s hope we would gain more information about Pazhassi Raja through M.T.

There is a small museum near to the Tomb of Pazhassi. It has exhibits of historical remainders genre such as stone sculptures, remnants of burial pots, rocks, hero stones,weapons etc.

The neighbourhood of the Tomb of Pazhassi Raja is abounded with wind as it is an elevated spot. One of the branches of Kabani River would be in sight, if looked down.

Enjoying the refreshing breeze, anyone would long to spend some time at Tomb of Pazhassi. If got a history book in hand, you may not even realize how fast you had finished reading the whole foliates of it.

The sun painting the western horizon with red hue, Tomb of Pazhassi would bestow with this mesmerising sight also.

Still, much more to be explored in Wayanad. I am journeying...
Figure 1: Kerala State Archaeology Department,Tomb of Pazhassi, Mananthavadi
The burial place of the hero of Kerala, brave Kerala Pazhassi Raja. Pazhassi raja was martyred in the Wayanad forest on 30th of November, in A.D.1805. The dead body was brought to Mananthavadi in the palanquin of Colonel Babar and buried here, with customary honours.

Figure 2: Grave marker: Brave, Kerala Pazhassi Raja, Rest in peace here
Death date: 1805 November 30

Translated from my Malayalam travel blog 'Chila Yaathrakal' by Miss Anu.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Munnar - a letter

Dear Joji

Got your mail asking about the picnic spots in munnar. Do excuse me for the delay in replying. Just came back today from oilfield offshore…..

There are so many places in and around Munnar for roaming and sight seeing. Joji , you decide the places according to the number of days that you have. I am just writing out a few places that I know about.

If you are ready for a serious journey other than just a pleasure trip, there is a lot to tell about Munnar.

We started our trip from Ernakulam. After reaching Neryamangalam Bridge, we saw ‘Ranikallu’ on the left side of the road. In 1931 Rani Sethu Lakshmi bhai opened this road and this is inscribed on it. Ranikallu is now an indisposable part of munnar’s history. After that we began our ascend to Munnar. Road to munnar has comparatively very less hairpin bends…. This is because the road is built along the old path used by the elephants to come down to the planes.

On the way to Munnar, we enjoyed the beauty of Cheeyappara water falls, chinnakanal water falls and many other small waterfalls…

The beauty of these waterfalls is magnified in the monsoons……. It is a real treat to the eyes!! Do not forget to bring along an extra pair of clothes if you want to enjoy a shower.

The sites of Munnar are pretty scattered, though the drive from one place to another, through the Tea Estates is surely an added attraction !! Besides, these aimless drives through the Tea estates and Grass fields are itself very refreshing…..

Hey,on your way do not miss the sight of workers who collect the tender Tea leaves( Known as Kolunth ), ok?

The major attractions in Munnar include Top station, Mattupetti and Devikulam Lake…If you are interested in old churches, visit the CSI Church in Old Munnar…

This age old church is situated in a valley and the history of it is as disturbing as it is interesting…..The cemetery was built 17 years before the church came….

Mr.Hentry Mans Field Night was the first G.M of Kannan Devan Factory and his wife Mrs.Elenor Isabel was so addicted to the beauty of Munnar that she casually exclaimed -
“ Bury me in this Hill for my final sleep”……

By some sadistic twist of fate, Mrs. Elenor Isabel passed away within 3 days from cholera…. She was buried on the hill. Her Tomb is still there, Later the church came up after 17 years. Since then, the Cemetery has witnessed much more Burials of foreigners and locals…

I’ve been to the church many times, but is yet to lay my eyes on Mrs. Elanor’s tomb….. The culprit is not some old ghost from a far away history….but the very common leaches which breed freely in the area….. Now, all we see from the church, is a mass of concrete structures…….…Ironically, the beauty of the place which made poor Elanor utter those inauspicious words are almost fully lost to modernity……

Once when I visited the church, I was lucky enough to see a rare old Bible and an exquisite Piano…….

The interior of the church itself depicts its age. The names of many of the late Europeans , carved in metal plates ornament the church walls.

You can reach Mattupetti when you travel in Iduki Route from Munnar Town . Mattupetti is known widely for its Indo-Swiss Cattle Project. Earlier people were allowed in there .But now as far as I know, visitors are not permitted .Anyway, in my opinion try not to miss it… It will be great to enjoy a boat trip in Mattupetti Lake. Do try to experience the echo effect when you are in the lake area….Besides, Mattupetti is also an area of scenic beauty. We felt like relaxing on that grass meadows with the lake view, for all eternity!

Devikulam lake is also a good picnic spot. The water filled lake in the monsoon is a sight to behold !!

Next point is Top station and that is of 35 kilometers drive from Munnar. The top view from the hill is a real eye candy….Usually, tourists never misses the Top Station.
If possible, include Kolukkumala with this trip. The Tea Estate in there is the highest one in the world. I strongly feel that once you reach till Munnar, then missing the sight of kolukkumala is a great loss. You can reach Sooryanelli from munnar via Chinnakanal route. From there it takes only 15 kilometers to reach Kolukkumala . Actually Kolukkumala belongs to the district of Bodinaykkannur in Tamilnadu, but there is no way to reach Kolukkumala from there by road.

Some of the other main places to see in Munnar are…--

Iravikulam National Park in 15 Km distance

Rajamala Forest Resort in 15 Km distance

Aanamudi Peak is at a distance of 50 kms . Aanamudi is the highest peak in Western Ghats in South India. An ideal place for those who are interested in Trekking.

Marayoor is an excellent place. It is situated at a distance of 40 kms from Munnar. On the way to Marayoor ,we can see Kanthalloor and Mannavan chola…The dense forest area of Mannavan Chola is of more than 42 Hectic kms and is situated at a height of 7800 meters …This area is noted for the presence of Elephants and Panthers !!

These are the main places in and around Munnar, as far as I know. Some of these places, I haven’t been to. Many places are still there to visit…My policy is to take time and enjoy one spot at a time.

Next bloom of ‘Neela Kurinji ‘ will take another 10 years ... ( Neela kurinji blooms once in every 12 years only). I have never been there in that season. Though I tried to be there in last session, couldn’t make it before the blooming season. It will be so crowded in Munnar at that time and I never prefer to roam around places when there is too much rush. The experience of some teachers who were in Munnar as part of a school trip was disheartening too. They had to be in Queue for hours and then got to see some trees which were already dried up.

I prefer to stay in Blue Mont Resort on my visits to Munnar .Blue Mont Resort is in Chinnakanal Route. Just 2.5 kilometers to Sooryanelli. Some of the major resorts like Mahindra, Sterling and Fort Munnar all are in the same route. Munnar Lake, a main attraction is in the same route. I am not aware of any alternate facilities like Home stay System or so in Munnar.

One good advantage of Blue Mont Resort is the cottage system. We can avail a cottage with 2 Bedrooms and a living room and is very convenient for families. Normal rooms are also available with affordable Tariff. All the other referred Resorts cost double than this. You can make a booking by dialing to 9447131710 after 5 pm. The best and the nearest view of the lake is possible from Blue Mont Resort.

Now the Temperature in Munnar is at 0 degree. It will be a great pleasure to make a trip To Munnar at this time…..enjoying the tickling fog….

Just ask me if you want to know anything more .Am only happy to help you out. Have a nice trip and try to write a travelogue afterwards.

With regards
(Yesterday, Today, For ever)
Translated from my Malayalam blog 'Chila Yaathrakal' by Jyothi.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Cave Dinner

Pala puli thananthakaari vetukopanakacham nannu chaththi"

This inscription seen on a rock, is in ancient Tamil. It means a powerful man of Naga origin who killed so many tigers…may be that such a personality had lived in that mountain or cave.

This mountain is the famous “Ambukuthi mala “in vayanadu and this inscription is found in Idaykkal caves in Ambukuthi mala which is situated 1200 meters above sea leve. Idaykkal caves is enriched with many inscriptions like this. Meanings of some inscriptions are yet to be decoded.

I’ve been roaming in and around Vayanadu for a long time. But a visit to Idaykkal caves, one of the most important destinations in vayanad which could even be one of the most important historical sites of India….it just didn’t happen till now.

This visit was planned along with my colleague Thansheer, and we were much particular to enquire about the other possible spots near Idayakkal, to be included in our trip. From Mananthavadi, we reached Idaykkal through Sulthan batheri via Ambalavayal.

On our way, we saw that State Tourism Board had put up a sign board to help visitors reach ‘Phantom Rocks’ ... Couldn’t help from spending some time in those rocks, named after the famous ‘walker uncle’. All of us know that, now days, the rocks and rivers are slowly disappearing. I saw that a neighbouring rock has almost fully vanished. May be in future, the Phantom Rocks will also be having the same fate.

Ambukuthimala is not very far from Phantom Rocks. There are enough parking facilities at the base of the hill along with the shops and other tourist attractions. It’s a bit over 1 km to reach the hiking point. But jeep services are also available to people who are queasy about walking this distance.

Private vehicles are not allowed in here… and yes, we opted for walking to reach the caves. Once in a while passenger jeeps pass by us, to and fro…Cottages of ‘Idaykkal Hermitage’ - the one and only resort in Idaykkal, can be occasionally seen on either sides of the road. Though our dinner order had been placed in advance in the hermitage, we did dial to confirm our arrival. In this part of the world its better not to take any chances!

When we reached the base of the mountains, it was crowded with school, college students and other tourists. The whole thrill and leisurely enjoyment of a trip gets spoiled in such a crowd. Photography was also going to be a tricky issue!

If we can cover the long distance to idaykkal and hike a kilometer, a couple of extra people wouldn’t be a challenge and we started the journey into the heart of the idykkal legacy.

‘One at a time’ was the system there and people were passing patiently maintaining the queue…

Progress was slow as the queue moved forward by clinging to and scampering over the hard rocks. Iron ladders and bridges were there in some places to make it easier for the tourists.

Compared to the last days quest to conquer“Chembra Peek “reaching Idaykkal caves seemed to be not the hardest thing in the world. May be it appeared easy due to our sluggish pace and indefinite breaks in the hike…..thanks to the commoner crowd!

Our ascend came to an end as we reached an iron gate which was the entry to the cave. We moved slowly to the insides i.e. the base levels of Idaykkal cave. These areas contain features which re affirms the contemporary outlook in the reader’s mind of a cave; but towards the interior they become less cave-like. Not much roofing is there and so Sunlight comes in abundance.

In 1894 Fred Fawcett discovered Idaykkal Caves accidentally. He was the District Superintendent of Police in Malabar and realizing its historical importance Fawcett brought the Caves to international limelight. Now Idaykal Caves is under the protection of Archeological department.

Inside the Caves—well….it was crowded. But hey! No surprises there!! It is always like this in Idaykkal Caves. Doesn’t make a difference whether it is a Saturday or a Sunday or even a week day. Maybe a little more crowded on a holiday, that’s all.

How did the caves get this name?—In an earthquake that happened thousands of years ago ,a portion of the mountain was destroyed and a huge piece of rock got stuck up in between the two rocks on the top layer of the Caves. Thus comes the name ‘Idaykkal Caves ‘.(means - a rock in between)

That piece of rock is still there in the same position. As an effect of the earthquake, a horizontal gap is there on the side of the caves .Through the gap; we can have a view of ‘Aayiramkolli’ and ‘Kappakolli ‘villages in a long shot .Precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of visitors so that no one falls down through the gap there.

As mentioned earlier the crowd was little too much and was a bane for a detailed view of the cave. After a long wait, we were able to talk with the people from Archaeological Department and clarify the historical facts which we had previously heard…..

The history of Idaykkal caves is so vibrant and detailed that Researchers and Historians are still unable to fully unfold them. For me it was a real help that I had done my homework with the books of historians like O.K.Johny.

Most of the inscriptions are on the left side of the Caves. These entries are assumed to be inscribed in the period of New Stone Age(Neothlic - c4000BC to c1700BC). The period when humans started with pottery, metals, agriculture and animal rearing.

Many of the murals depict humans, animals, flowers and tools. Certain drawings are difficult to be distinguished as they were overdrawn by others.

Certain stone weapons has been found from Kuppamedu Estate near Sultanbathery in 1890 -1901.Tools like hammer and axe made of stone has been found from Idaykkal caves also. All these confirm the assumption that the pictures seen in the caves belong to New Stone Age. What so ever it is clear that the caves were occupied by more than a single tribe...

The oldest inscriptions in the caves are considered to be more than 8000 years old. Took their snaps when light permitted and we had a chat with the people of Archaeological department.

Even after extensive scientific studies about the caves, the myths and legends which are widespread still remain at large in the minds of the locals.

Caves made from the arrows of Lava & Kusa (sons of Lord Rama)…. The caves where Lord Rama attacked Soorpanakha. The Mountain cleavage caused by the arrows sent by Krishna. These are some of the stories told about the Caves. Besides these, certain local stories related to Idaykkal Bhagavathi , Nellakottu Bhagavathi are also being said about “ Ambukuthi mala “ and Idaykkal Caves..

Until recently rituals were being performed in the temple at the mountain top. (Historians state with proof that this was a Jain temple)

It was closing time by then but visitors were still trickling in. Ambukuthimala is about 500ms higher than the caves and if you want to reach the peak of the mountain, you need to crawl through another cleave of the rocks. This passage is so narrow that only one can barely pass at a time. Thansir, my friend was heavier than me and when I watched him trying to accommodate himself through the split, with a bag on his back ….an amusing doubt with a smile came to me…..What if the gap is permanently……

I could see a group of almost 20 youngsters who had managed to reach the other side of the cleave. They were relaxing now and decided not to climb further as it was riskier…

The next one was a big round rock ….Though an iron ladder and a rope were all there to help the climbers , it was not an easy task, with the camera and the Tripod..

The view of Vayanad was getting more and more vivid as we scaled to the peak. At that distance we could recognize the Phantom Rock and the mountain.

Sand was being scattered everywhere on the rock making it slippery and with the shoes it was even more difficult. A group of adventurous school students who were coming down warned us to not use the shoes for further ascent.

The other day we had climbed Chembra Peak which was higher than this…Now here it seemed to be wise to avoid a go with the crowd of youngsters. Considering our age, the camera that we had and our own life, we decided to put a full stop here to our hiking.

On our way back, we enjoyed certain local refreshments like ‘sarbath’ (a modified version of lime soda), salt pickled mango and gooseberry. These helped us to feel fresh after the tiring trip. As there was still time for dinner, we decided to visit the Heritage Museum at Ambalavayal.

We reached the Museum before dark and there too it was crowded with school students. But it is indeed a good thing that more and more people visit Vayanad to enjoy the sites.

Some of the attractions of the Museum are the trinket leftovers of ancient man – ‘Madambi Vilakku ‘ , ‘Veerakallukal ‘ and partially damaged stone statues etc etc … We also saw tools , weapons , Ornaments and Clay Utensils which were still used by tribals.

Moon was up by the time we where finished with the museum .Once again back to Idaykkal. We observed with a smile that local people were inquisitive when we started the drive and someone even cared to confirm that we were going to “ Hermitage Resort “.

A variety of facilities like different types of cottages, Restaurants, Tree Houses, Open air Theatres and conventional Ayurvedic treatments like Uzichil-Pizhichil are all available in Idaykkal Hermitage.

Mr.Raghu, manager of the Hermitage showed us the cottages. When I saw the Tree houses overlooking the valley, I decided to spend one or two days out there on my next visit. A Total skip from the stressful city life!!

Now it was dinnertime. This dinner can be called the ‘Highlight’ of Idaykkal trip. Resort has a natural cave of its own. A big rock forms the upper portion of this cave restaurant. And this rock roof manages itself on the support of sand and small rocks on the side. Just a small cave hole marks the entrance and exit door. Inside it is spacious enough to accommodate 3 - 4 tables. Still food is not served on more than one table at a time.

To let us enjoy that feel of a ‘ dinner at Caves ‘ the staff left us alone after the food was set on the table.

More than 50 Candle lights – Pin drop silence – Thansir and me in that Cave for almost an hour... The Best ever dinner in my Life!!!

I haven’t heard about such a cave dinner system, anywhere in the world. But it does exist in ‘God’s Own Country ‘– Our Little Kerala -- Places we have never been to, unseen sights, Historical caves, scenic beauty and so many unforgettable experiences…
Translated from my Malayalam blog 'Chila Yaathrakal' by Jyothi