Travelogue S35 - Kerala 05- Wayanaad - The Dawn of Civilization
6000 years ago, a tribal chief stood here and had his engraving made on a cave. 6000 years later i was staring it like a fool trying to figure out what it meant. Welcome to Wayanad. The land of magic and history.
The chief who got the engraving done, left some inscriptions beside it. Even to this day it has not been deciphered. Wayanad is home to some of the oldest secrets of humanity.
Wayanaad is also probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. It’s a hill station located in Kerala. We had a chance to visit the place. The name 'Wayanad' is derived from 'Vayal Naatu' in Malayalam which translates to 'the land of paddy fields' in English. However, words are simply not enough to describe the careless natural beauty of the place. I use the word careless because you would see there is literally no effort made to preserve or project any nature, like a lot of the other tourist destinations. It just simply seems that the area was gifted with natural water bodies and a pleasant climate and nature it seems responded with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.
Perched at an altitude of 700 to 2100 meters above sea level. The place is home to many of the indigenous tribes of Kerala. Wayanad is bordered by the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The carvings in the Caves of Edakkal and other evidence states that the place is as old as the beginning of New Age human civilization. Much evidence of old stone age civilization can be seen in the hills throughout the present day Wayanad district. For example, the Edakkal Caves has 6000-year-old rock engravings from the Neolithic age.
The drive to Wayanad is a beautiful scenic experience. As we approached Wayanad, the roads started winding with beautiful tea gardens on both sides. It’s really not necessary to visit any particular place in Wayanad. Do recall my comment about the careless natural beauty. Any place you stand in Wayanad is beautiful enough to be a popular tourist location.
The nearest airport to Wayanad is Karipur international airport at Kozhikode and about 100 km to go from Wayanad city. Along with Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai this airport links gulf countries too, such as- Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi.
However, if you are coming in from other countries you may have to come to come in via Kochi. You can also come in via Bangalore (9 hours) and Coimbatore (4.5 hours). However, if tourism is the objective then I would strongly recommend Kochi Airport since there are many things to see on the way.
One of the first places we went to see was Edakkal Caves. The cave complex is about 45 minutes’ drive from Wayanad. The entrance fee to the place is INR 20 for adults and INR 10 for children. Foreigners have to pay INR 40 / USD $0.60. If you want to take cameras there is a minor charge of INR 10 / USD $0.15 for still cameras and INR 100/ USD $1.50 for Video Cameras. The cave timings are 0900 hours to 1600 hours. So, it’s important go a little early.
The climb to the cave is not for someone who is not in good physical shape. People with weak knees should either avoid or make sure they have some one to help them. Also, its recommended that Asthma patients or people with breathing difficulties should carry inhalers or relevant medication.
Ambukuthi mala is a mountain located in a place called Sultan Batheri in Wayanad. Edakkal Caves is located in a hideout at a height of 1000 meters. If we try and imagine the whole place without all the modern amenities, we will see that it would have been some sort of either a hideout or a well-guarded tribal headquarters located at a height. Today the caves have a road leading up to it. However, in pre-historic times, it would have been quite the place for a chief to rule from.
A trek up the majestic Ambukuthi Hills will get you to the caves. The aroma of coffee stays with you the entire way. It is a surreal experience that as we step into the shadows of the cave as we also step into the light of knowledge of our past.
The cave has been formed by the splitting of a large rock and a large boulder getting stuck in between. In fact, “Edakkal” means “stone in between”.
The wall inscriptions range from various dates. From a tribal chief from the old stone age to carvings from the new stone age. The Edakkal caves are believed to be camping shelters of the Neolithic community. The cave walls contain a collection of Neolithic rock engravings and images.
Blast from the past The ChiefNot for the faint hearted. More recent carvings with WordsMy Mom
The major part of images on the cave walls may belong to late Neolithic period. While there are engravings which are as old as 7000 years old the most recent one is an undated Prakrit-Grantha inscription of Kadamba king Vishnu Varma assigned to 5th or 6th century AD.
View from top Close up of the above
One of the saddest stories is the huge trees that surrounded the caves and the mountains. Some of these huge trees were over a thousand years old. Their tree trunks needed three people to use both their arms to cover the width. They were so beautiful and they covered place in such a manner that I felt as if time had stopped and I had stepped into another reality. Unfortunately, during the devastating 2018 Kerala floods most of them were lost.
The 2nd stop for the day was Phantom Rock. We were much intrigued by the name. The place was definitely worth it. Phantom Rock is a tourist destination in Ambalavayal in Wayanad. It is a natural metamorphic rock formation resembling a human skull, and thus is known as Phantom Rock. It stands at a height of 2600 feet above sea level. It is near "Cheengeri Mala" very close to the Edakkal Caves.
View of the valley Below
The Phantom RockMuahaha
The place is quiet, not many people around us. You can sit there for some time and chill. A nice drink or a smoke would be perfectly in order in this place. The scenic beauty is as usual stunning.
Path to the rock
You can easily spend and hour or so. Best way to get here is to first visit Edakkal Caves and then ask someone to point you to the road to Phantom Rock.
Finally as evening approached we visited an esoteric temple called Tirunelli temple. Its located-on top of a hill. However, owing to modern transportation, getting there is not an issue. Its about 45 kilometres from Wayanad and takes about 90 minutes to get there.
The temple lies at an altitude of 3000 feet and can be reached by driving through three wild life sanctuaries. Thirunelli Temple can be accessed from Mananthavady or Kalpetta. The Periya ghat road connects Mananthavady to Kannur and Thalassery. The Thamarassery mountain road connects Calicut with Kalpetta. The Kuttiady mountain road connects Vatakara with Kalpetta and Mananthavady. The nearest railway station is at Mysore and the nearest airports are Kozhikode International Airport-120 km, Coimbatore International Airport-242 km, Bengaluru International Airport-290 km, and Kannur International Airport, 58 km.
Thirunelli Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu on the side of Brahmagiri hill in Kerala. The temple is at an altitude of about 900m in north Wayanad in a valley surrounded by mountains and beautiful forests. The exact date of the creation is not known to anyone. To get an idea as to how old it might be,it is best ascertained from the fact that the ancient Puranas written by Ved Vyaas mentions this temple. It was called Sahyamalak Kshetra. The interiors are interesting too, however pictures were not allowed ☹
The temple is also known as a very popular place for people to do the last rites for their near and dear ones. There is also a stream near the temple. Taking a bath in the stream is believed to absolve one of their sins. This is also one of the temples that has no well or pond. Instead the temple gets its water by means of a mountain stream. The surrounds are stunning in their beauty. Definitely an exotic and esoterically powerful spiritual place. In fact, in India whenever you see a “Hill temple” it’s a good idea to give the place a second look. Usually there would be some esoteric spiritual practice associated with the place.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this place as much as I enjoyed sharing with you. If you want to know anything about this place you can reach out to me via the comments section.
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