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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Kerala as a destination has always displayed a tendency to seek out radically different routes in its journeys, a propensity accentuated by its unique origins, distinctive mythology, and even its inspiring history. God’s own country, Kerala, is known for its openness, inclusiveness, harmony, and, above all, natural beauty.

In the northern parts of the state, in the Malabar region, lies a green paradise, known for its tea gardens, variety of trees all over, and pollution-free atmosphere.

 Wayanad is one of the most pristine regions in Kerala. It is famous for its picturesque mist-clad hills, aromatic spice plantations, waterfalls flanked by luxurious forest and a refreshingly cool climate. Perennial freshwater lakes, small untouched islands and fascinating wildlife sanctuaries make Wayanad an all-time favorite destination.

Green Paradise

Nestled among the mountainous Western Ghats, this green paradise is also famous for its spices, tea, and coffee.

Wayanad has a rich historical heritage that extends as far back as the Stone Age, and the hills bear overwhelming evidence of pre-historic civilization. The kings of Kottayam were the modern-day founders of Wayanad and have made a significant mark on its history.

The statue of Karin Thandan. (Photo courtesy of Suman Bajpai)

The vastness of greenery is also covered with the caves, forts, and temples of Wayanad, which speak of its glorious history. With its tribal traditions and forest secrets, Wayanad makes for a soul stirring retreat. Forests entwined with the tea plantation estates are followed by the ruins of Jain temples and a handful of waterfalls. The composition of Wayanad is surprisingly vivid. A mud road would culminate in Chegadi, the first entirely agricultural village pearled in the midst of a forest. Boundaries are a blur and it is hard to draw a line of where one ends and the other begins in Wayanad.

Chain tree

While passing from Lakkidi, on the way to Wayanad, a statue and a chain tree create curiosity. The chained tree, which is called ‘Changalamaram’ in Malayalam, has a special significance in the lives of the tribal community, which is highest in number here. Karin Thandan, the first tribal leader of this place, who opened the gateway of Wayanad for Britishers. This story dates back to the 17th century. Wayanad was once home to only tribal people due to its remote location from the sea.It was a dense forest during that time with wild animals. Britishers wanted to survey that area, and Karin Thandan helped them to find out about the different locations.

 Later on, Britishers planted tea and coffee and it became a big asset for them. But then, Britishers didn’t want Karin Thandan to show the path to others, and he was killed by them.

Immediately after his death, the tribe started facing difficulties and diseases. An astrologer told them that the spirit of Karin Thandan is still here and should be chained, so that he can live here forever peacefully. It is believed that his spirit is tied to this large ficus tree, known as the “chain tree,” where his statue was also made.

Tea plantation

It says that all the roads, all the curves, lead to tea gardens in Wayanad. Generally, Wayanad is considered an area where the aroma of coffee mesmerises tourists, but this hilly region has a century-old tea culture also. When Britishers were exploring this area, they came to know that the hills contained gold. Digging was started, but instead of gold, they left behind a golden hue in the kitchen of every household. Wayanad’s tree plantations are the result of gold digging gone futile. After the Britishers left, Indian companies took over the profitable business, but it still bears the marks of English culture. You will learn about the journey of tea and also its benefits. At the tea-making unit, it is really amazing to watch tea leaves going through different processes.

Cycling around these tea gardens is considered an adventure sport, along with zip-lining here. Sip a golden aroma and indulge in adventure tourism in the beauty of Wayanad. Silver oak trees are planted to stop land erosion.

Places to explore

If one really wants to explore Wayanad and its life, then spend at least one week there as it has a lot to offer. If you are interested in trekking, then Edakkal caves are the best option. These caves look as if they might depict some kind of secret. Masked men holding jars; animals; stars; wheels; and other shapes are chiselled on the walls. And in between these drawings, four transcripts from the Neolithic and Mesolithic ages stand apart. One reads, “Here lived a man once who freed us from the beasts; this is inscribed for the fame of the clan.” And one sits on a moss-clad rock at the centre of the conclave in these caves. It feels like rocks have huddled around you, their heads colliding as if sharing some secret.

The wildlife sanctuaries of Wayanad beckon. Bordering the Bandipur reserve forest of Karnataka, the Muthanga forest range is a part of the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary in Sulthan Bathery. With common sightings of herds of elephants and other wild species, a trip to the Muthanga forests offers a unique experience in learning and recreation.

The Banasura Sagar Dam, situated in Kalpetta and built on behalf of the Banasura Dam project in 1979, is the largest earthen dam in India and the second largest in Asia. Banasura gets its name from Banasura, the son of king Mahabali. The Banasura hills, the second tallest in Wayanad, become the backdrop of this dam, making it a picturesque view.

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Suman Bajpai

Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 17 books on different subjects and translated around 160 books from...