Palakkad: the gateway to Kerala from Mainland

After retirement I moved from Calcutta to Palakkad. Now I am in Delhi. During the Last 20 years I have been to some of the Beautiful places in Palakkad District, there are numerous of them. During the last one year I have taken some photos of places some 10 Km from my house there. I am also enclosing a photo of a mini pooram festival in my village Karimba. In almost every village there are poorams like this. These poorams culminate in the very famous Trichur Pooram.

Pooram


I am giving this to let you know that every nook and corner of Kerala is beautiful, though facilities for tourists are not available. My house was on the foothill of the beautiful Meenvallam water falls. It is a little known, beautiful Waterfall deep in the forest. It is a 10 step fall of which only two are visible. Others are inaccessible to ordinary folks. I am giving the photos of ordinary unnamed spots around my house there, not known to outside world.

Meenvallam Falls

Very close to my house

Palakkad is a land of palm trees and paddy fields. It is known to be rich in flora and fauna. Etymologically Palakkad is derived from the words Pala and Kadu. Pala is a tree with sweet scented flowers and Kadu meaning forest. Pala tree’s fine smell goes beyond 500 meters.

Paddy fields

The Rice Bowl of Kerela

Palakkad becomes the point of entry for the north east monsoon into Kerala through the Palakkad mountain pass which is a very wide one (about 40 km). This ‘rice bowl of Kerala’, has vast stretches of lush green paddy fields. The high ranges and the weather of the place has also gifted the place with not just velvet carpets of several tea and coffee estates (Sholayar, Attappadi etc), but also orange estates at Nelliampathy – probably the only ones in the state. Silent Valley, the dense green natural forest, belongs to this district. There is also a well maintained wildlife sanctuary at Parambikulam.

Monsoon Cloud At Noon

Oldest naturally growing Teak at Parambikulam

Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary is tucked away in the valley between the Anamalai ranges of Tamil Nadu in the east, and the Nelliampathy ranges of Kerala on the other. This virgin valley that is the pride of Palakkad district is a glorious tribute to untouched nature.

Here is found the largest and the oldest naturally growing (about 450 years now) teak tree in the world, 40 metre high and 6.4 m in girth and named “KANNIMARAM ” stands as a monument of the past. Teak in English is derived from the Malayalam word “Tekku”.

Unfortunately there is no direct access to this place from Kerala. You have to access it from Tamilnadu. It is very difficult to make roads from Palakkad. Since it is very difficult I have not gone there but I am giving a photo taken by my young friend Biju.

Biggest Teak

Rightly, Kerala Govt. in order to promote Tourism, named Kerala as God’s Own Country. But Swami Vivekananda Named it “Lunatic Asylum” seeing the abominable untouchability practiced by the High casts. (Even My great grand father had 6 slaves bought for his work.) They were not allowed to come near to the higher caste. If a low cast come near a Brahmin with his Prasad from the temple it will become impure. If a Syrian Christian touches it, then it will become pure again. Matriarchal systems of the Nairs and Marriage system of Namboodiri Brahmins were also ridiculous. That is past.

Here’s some more pleasant pics before I talk further about Malayalies.

Spot very near my house

Full moon at Dusk

Now, the Malayalies are all over India and the world. They work very hard and diligently everywhere. The only place they don’t work and don’t allow others to work is Kerala. Even recently there was a harthal (strike). It is a perennial problem. Even Tourist is not spared. For work in the field they are bringing Bengalis and men from Orissa. Land Mafias, liquor mafias, fake swamis, rape, political murders etc. are daily seen in news papers. Youngsters flee from this place to wherever they can found peace.

You decide whether Kerala is God’s own Country or a still a lunatic asylum.

Traditionally all Malayalies, irrespective of religion, believe that a benevolent King (Maha Bali) who ruled Kerala till Vamanavathar of Maha Vishnu. During his Rule Kerala was real Utopia. No one tell lies, no gossip, and no cheating in Mesurement. All were happy and everything was in plenty. In fact it was once God’s Own country only then.
Maha Bali happened to be the grand son of Prahalad (the Vishnu Bhakta). But Vaman came and asked this King Maha Bali who is very honest, and kind that he wants some land in his kingdom – only enough to cover the three foot steps of him. The benevolent King agreed. With two steps he covered the whole land. When asked for the rest of the land, the honest king showed him his head. Thus Vaman shoved him to Pathal below.

Malayalies are at a loss to think why Vishnu as Vaman destroyed Maha Bali, he being the grandson of Prahalad (a Vishnu Bhakta). But Maha Bali asked for a boon from Vaman that he should be allowed to visit his subjects every year at a time, astrologically speaking, when the sun is in Leo Rasi and the Moon is in Kumba Rasi in Shravana Nakshatra – and that will be a full moon. (In August September.) Malayalees, regardless of Religion, observe (Shravana) Onam festival with great pomp.

Parasuram Avatar came next. He throw his Axe and Kerala came up from the sea. My question is, does Kerala go down to Sea after Maha Bali’s rule, so that Parasuram can bring it up again?

 

24 Comments

  • Nandan says:

    What a Teak. If you look hard, you would notice there are a bunch of people standing there and you can get a idea of total height. Thanks for sharing.

    If not for this story, I doubt that whether I would have ever known something about palakkad and that the ‘silent valley’ is close-by and all the other useful information. Apart from the travel adrenaline the stories are also incrementing our information-quotients. :) Great.

    looking fwd to hear from Malyalies on your query ?

  • Patrick Jasper says:

    Dear Phillip
    I am from Nagercoil in KK Dt. which was in fact a part of kerala earlier before being amalgamated with Tamil Nadu. As such we share many of the trade marks of keralites (Indeed many of our people seek alliances from kerala) and kerala. This also includes the breathtaking scenery and beautiful waterfalls, Ocean views etc. sometimes thinking about it makes me want to go back home. It is indeed Gods own country. As for your question i guess i am neither qualified enough nor do i think such a debate should be started here.
    Chow
    The other Patrick

  • Philip Mathai says:

    Mr. Patric Jasper,

    Palakkad was in Tamilnadu, before it becomes part of Kerala. Some people from Travancore Migrated to this and other places in Malabar and made it into a very good rubber producing district. 90 percent of Rubber produced in India is from Kerala. Now, thanks to Oil price hike, it fetches 135 Rs a Kg. This and the NRI remittances and remittances from people like you to Kerala maintain the economy of Kerala. Yes Kerala is Beautiful country. But to become Gods Own Country it has to be ruled by a Maha Bali. (An Asura King)

  • Smita says:

    God’s own country, indeed!

    The pictures are beautiful and I actually regret resisting Kerela for so long… it could probably be a language inhibition, or I don’t know what. But your post is so inspiring. I wonder if it is as good for a general tourist, to be able to spot this virgin beauty.

    Welcome to Ghumakkar, please do be around.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for sharing some lesser known facts about Palakkad. I know a few persons from the region, but never had the pleasure of knowing the things you have so beautifully described in your post.

    Mini Poorams eminating from the small villages and culminating in the Trichur Pooram – the event at Trichur must be mesmerising. The temple behind the row of ornamented elephants reminded me of the famous Mungeshi temple in Goa.

    The 40 m tall and 450 years old “Kannimaram” teak tree is simply amazing.

    Welcome aboard and please do keep on sharing your experiences.

  • Philip Mathai says:

    Hi! Ram Dall & Smita

    Thanks for the appreciation. Yes I have given some unknown places. I lived adjacent to National high way 213 in between Palakkad and Silent valley. There is a Mountain rage all along the high way. It is known as Kalladikodan Range. All along the range it is beautiful. Once or twice I met some foreign tourists who happened to Bi-cycle through this highway. They asked me why your people are not allowing home stay for tourist. You have very good homes having 6 and 12 rooms. That is the real question. 20 years back there were very few good houses there. Now there are many. There was only one car coming to our Church. Now there is not sufficient parking place in our church for its members. Thanks to the good price getting for Rubber.

    I hope Govt. will arrange for home stay arrangement in the near future for tourists. Many of us can arrange home stay for genuine tourists approved by Govt.

    Philip

  • manish khamesra says:

    Dear Philip,

    What an enjoyment to read this post from you! Beautifully written and yes it gives an insight that only a local can give. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    The picture you posted is of Karimba or Pooram. I think its at Pooram, as this fleet of elephant seems to be too big for a small village and if its of Karimba, one can only imagine the grandeur at Pooram. Just curious !

    Thinking that your house is at the foothills of this water falls, I just felt that how difficult it might be for you to live in this concrete jungle of Delhi. And yes, I agree that to get that extra income in beautiful villages they should allow home stay permits. Tourism itself is a big industry and can be a big boost for any place :)
    It was also interesting to know that rubber has started bringing prosperity in some villages. Its a welcome change.

    And there are few things, only a knowledgable person like you could have written about – About casteism, Slavery, belief in Mahabali in all citizens regardless of their religion. I could never have imagined that slavery existed in my country just a few generations back. I will also like to pass my kudos to you to express your anguish on the culture of “Haartaal” and the loss its bringing to the state and its people. I also heard that Kerla economy is booming because of two reasons: Money from Gulf and tourism industry.

    Despite all this I must say that I loved Kerala in my visit to that beautiful place and even with all its short comings its in-fact GOD’s own country.

    I also saw your story on rubber (as requested by me), I have still to go through it, but again I glanced through it and felt that it would be very interesting to read that too and of course you have beautiful pictures also in that post too.

    I loved the pictures of elephant procession, biggest teak and in-fact most of them are treat for eyes.

    Thanks Philip for being around. I am looking forward to read much more from you.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    I read a book by John Keay – “Into India” that majority of Syrian Christians are in India. I would recommend this excellant book to any one interested in knowing about India (This book has many things to know for Indians too).
    But then I realized that how less I know that this branch of Christianity is different from rest in the world.
    Philip, in case you know in detail, could you please write about it more or may be share it as a post. So that many others can learn more.

  • backpakker says:

    A very interesting post and like you rightfully said, there are lesser known places in Kerala which are not touristy..Ive been to Palakad many years ago and stayed there for a few days as well..always wanted to go for the festival but its been crowded of late ..well Im not a Malayalee, so Im leaving your question unanswered

    Lakshmi

  • philipmathai says:

    Thanks all for the good comments. Yes Manish I will write about the landing place of St. Thomas in Kerala with photos and the history and culture of Syrian Christians. In fact my uncle, a Historian, has written about Syrian Christians.

    Philip

  • philipmathai says:

    Hi! Lakhshmi!

    I do not want an answer to my question. It was only to point out some traditions and history do not tally. Any way it is a hot discussion point of eminent persons in Kerala in News papers. The latest view is that Mahabali had his Yagnja conducted on the Banks of River Indus. He conquered all the three world ( Heaven of Indra) the earth and Pathal ( World below.) Mahabali never visited or ruled Kerala. Maha Vishnu is now in a predicament. He has to give back the kingdom of Heaven to Indra. Also he has to keep his promise to Prahalad that all his ancestors and all his decendents will be protected. In fact Maha Vishnu was a sentry at the court of Mahabali.

    So Mahavishnu find this novel methoed. Mahavishnu actually Blessed Mahabali with his leg as that is more prestigious than blessing with hand. Mahabali was given a better place named “Suthala” than the Deva loka of Indra.

    Parasuram brought Kerala out of the sea. He killed Kshathriyas 21 times. so in order to make prayachitha he offered kerala to brahmins of Narmada Valley. The brahmins used to worship shiva and Mahabali. It is from these Brahmans got the festival of Onam Which used to be a harvest festival during August September every year. But we malayalees are at a dialamma even now. We cannot belive all the new stories.

    Philip

  • Rahul says:

    Thanks for providing a distinct flavour of the region in the post. Your post highlights the perspectives of a local that a tourist never possesses.
    How accessible is Palakkad from Kozhikode, as that’s the area I may be visiting sometime in near future?

  • philipmathai says:

    Hi! Rahul
    From Palakkad Town it will be about 200 Km. to Kozhikode. Karimba Village is about 30 KM from Palakkad town towards Kozhikode through National High way 213. Silent Valley is about 56 Km. from Karimba . It is good for Researchers. For tourists. facilities are very poor. Govt. do not want to make it a tourist spot as it will endanger the ecology of the region.

    Parabikulam is in Palakkad district but entry is through Tamilnad. You have to enquire from Tourist office about this site. It has a wild life sanctuary and a bird sanctuary. It is better to get details from Tourist offices. Kozhikode is the Birth place of P.T. Usha and the late V.K. Krishna Menon. It is also a centre for the Martial art called Kalarippayattu

    Philip

  • Santhosh says:

    Dear Mr Mathai,

    As appreciated by others, its a nice article. Very well written. Now I am writing to you with a request. I am from Pulappatta, near Karimba and Kalladikkode and you would probably know the place. I am in the process of developing a website on Pulappatta (www.pulappatta.com) and I would like to include in the website the details of neighbouring villages as well. So would you allow me to use in my website some of the photographs and few extractions from your above article, with due credit to you? Please do let me know. I can be reached at ramukhsohtnas@yahoo.com.
    Thanks.
    Regards,
    Santhosh

  • Nambudiri says:

    I am looking for a house with a small plot in this beautiful area of palghat .
    any response welcome

    ID : deeyen1992@yahoo.co.in

  • K. C. Thomas says:

    I have seen most of the places shown in various pictures except the giant old Teak tree. The beauty and the serenity of the land is breath taking. I now live in Canada which is also very beautiful but in a different way. What I miss here is the heavy rain of thiruvathira njanttuvela which without fail occur during the early part of June in Kerala. As you alluded the psyche of Malayalees within Kerala is very different and they forget that the cornerstone of democracy is the rule of law. Slavery did exist in Kerala not too long ago but not in the way it became the backbone of American economic system. What existed in Kerala (and may be in rest of India as well) was something worse than slavery. People because of their birth at certain social strata were deprived of all social equality, they never were able to climb out of the social mire and lived in perennial poverty. In my life time I did not witness slavery in Kerala but have seen bonded servant system in operation. Bonded servants were those who made binding promise to a landlord or janmi to work for him and him only in return for lump sum of money or grain given to them during seasons when no work was available. They could work for others only if the master permited it. The landless labourers were doubly obligated to the their masters if they lived on the property of the janmies.

  • Jerry Jaleel says:

    A very nice post indeed about Palakkad or Palghat as it was called up to a few years ago, a popular Railway station that links Kerala to Madras.

    I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the small town of Mannarghat in Palakkad district, as our base camp, and from here we went to visit Parambikulam wildlife sanctuary one day and the Silent Valley National Park another day. I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the forests and mountains in this area. There is no sign of India being overcrowded here, just serene and majestic scenery stretching as far as eye can see, an unforgettable panoramic view.

    Here we saw the elusive Lion tailed monkeys leaping from tall trees, a huge Malabar Squirrel and dozens of wild pigs digging up roots among tall trees and an astonishing number of birds of various species: all these and much more, makes this part of Kerala, regardless its connection to god, one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  • kariachen says:

    Great article. thanks for posting. About 50 yrs ago my father bought
    100, acres from Kalladikode ,or Kanjikulam Kuruppanmare. Rigt next to
    to your water fall.old story for Rs 100, per acres. Now i leave in USA,with
    1500, sq feet appartment. with alot of memories.

    tks for posting,god bless u.

    Karia

  • Riyasudheenkc says:

    Hi Philippetan I am Riyas residing in Karimba Pallippadi.. I read th Post nd Thanks alot 4 Ur article.. As a Palakkadan Malayalee am very happy.. I visited u once wen u wer in Edakurissi with my frnd Ciby John. Any way Thanks once again

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Thank you Phillip Sir for helping us re-publish this old gem.

  • Philip Mathai, I must say you have put up a wonderful display of places worth seeing in Kerala. I loved the pictures you have shared. Can you tell me where and when I will get to see the elephants decorated that way?

  • Hiten Bhatt says:

    Dear Sir,
    I am from Ahmedabad. Very nice article. If I want to visit your home, what I do? just kidding……enjoy life…

  • Col NN Bhatia (Retd) says:

    I enjoyed every bit of the article especially the photos and the narrative. Kerala indeed is God’s own country with lush green forests and fields, waterfalls and backwaters. For the most of us visiting big towns and hill stations means enjoyment but for me the remote areas, forests, waterfalls, peaks and lesser traveled tracks enjoying forest walks and seeing likes of the giant old teak tree mean nectar of life while humming often quoted Robert Frost’s lines-

    ‘The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

    But I have promises to keep,

    And miles to go before I sleep,

    And miles to go before I sleep.’

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