Wayanad District, in the north-east of Kerala , India , was formed on November 1 , 1980 as the 12th district, carved out of Kozhikode and Kannur districts. The etymology of the word Wayanad is Vayal (paddy) Naad (land); 'Land of Paddy Fields'. There are many indigeneous tribals in this area. It is set lofty on the majestic Western Ghats with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 Metres above mean sea level.
Comprising an area of 2,132 sq. kilometres, Wayanad has a powerful history. Historians are of the view that organised human life existed in these parts, at least ten centuries before Christ. Countless evidences about New Stone Age civilisation can be seen on the hills of Wayanad. The two caves of Ampukuthimala located between Sulthan Bathery and Ambalavayal, with pictures on their walls and pictorial writings, speak volumes of the bygone era and civilisation. Recorded history of this district is available from the 18th century. In ancient times, this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Veda tribe. In later days, Wayanad came under the rule of the Pazhassi Rajahs of Kottayam royal dynasty. When Hyder Ali becames the ruler of Mysore, he invaded Wayanad and brought it under his sway. In the days of Tipu, Wayanad was restored to the Kottayam royal dynasty. But Tipu handed over the entire Malabar region to the British, after the Sreerangapattanam truce, he made with them. This was followed by fierce and internecine encounters between the British and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Rajah of Kottayam. When the Rajah was driven to the wilderness of Wayanad, he organised the war-like Kurichiya tribals into a sort of people's militia and engaged the British in several guerrilla type encounters. In the end, the British could get only the dead body of the Rajah, who killed himself somewhere in the interior of the forest. Thus, Wayanad fell into the hands of the British and with it came a new turn in the Home of this area. The British authorities opened up the plateau for cultivation of tea and other cash crops. Roads were laid across the dangerous slopes of Wayanad, from Kozhikode and Thalassery. These roads were extended to the cities of Mysore and Ooty through Gudalur. Through the roads poured in settlers from all parts of Kerala and the virgin forest lands proved a veritable goldmine with incredible yields of cash crops. When the State of Kerala came into being in November 1956, Wayanad was part of Kannur district. Later, south Wayanad was added to Kozhikode district. In order to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Wayanad for development, north Wayanad and South Wayanad were carved out and joined together to form the present district of Wayanad. This district came into being on November 1, 1980 as the 12 district of Kerala.
Wayanad has a salubrious climate. The mean average rain fall in this district is 2322 m.m. Lakkidi, Vythiri and Meppadi are the high rainfall areas in Wayanad. Annual rain fall in these high rain fall areas ranges from 3,000 to 4,000m.m. High velocity winds are common during the south west monsoon and dry winds blow in March-April. High altitude regions experience severe cold. In Wayanad (Ambalavayal) the mean maximum and minimum temperature for the last five years were 29oC and 18oC respectively. This place experiences a high relative humidity which goes even up to 95 per cent during the south west monsoon period. Generally, the year is classifed into four seasons, namely, cold weather (December-February), hot weather (March-May), south west monsoon (June-September) and north east monsoon(October-November). The dale, 'Lakkidi', nestled among the hills of Vythiri taluk has the highest average rainfall in Kerala. The average rain fall in Wayanad is 300mm. per year. There is a decreasing trend in rainfall in this area. The average rainfall data shows that the lowest rain fall received from north east monsson, is in Wayanad district.
Wayanad lies between north latitude 110 27' and 150 58' and east 750 47' and 700 27'. It is bounded on the east by Nilgigris and Mysore districts of Tamilnadu and Karnataka respectively, on the north by Coorg district of Karnataka, on the south by Malappuram and on the west by Kozhikode and Kannur.
Wayanad district stands on the southern top of the Deccan plateau and its chief glory is the majestic Western ghats with lofty ridges interspersed with dense forest, tangled jungles and deep valleys, the terrain is rugged.
One important characteristic feature of this district is the large adivasi population, consisting mainly of Paniyas, Kurumas, Adiyars, Kurichyas, Ooralis, Kadans,Kattunaikkans are the different aboriginal tribes of Wayanad. The Kurichyar is the most developed among them. They are small land owners, whereas the members of other tribes are mostly labourers. Wayanad district stands first in the case of adivasi population (about 36%) among other districts in the state.
Wayanad has a large settler population. There are people from almost all parts of Kerala who migrated to this fertile land for building up their lives. Wayanad has a small jain community consisting of Gowders who came from Karnataka. They have built beautiful temples all over the district. Almost all sections of Christianity are well represented. One fourth population of Wayanad is constituted by Christians. Muslims constitute another one fourth population and rest of the population belongs to Hindus. Their hard work and sacrifice helped them to prosper. On the other hand, the last few decades have seen the complete marginalisation of the indigeneous people.
Flora and fauna
The flora of Wayanad are characteristic of the Western Ghats and the plantation crops grown in the cool climate. A major portion of the district is covered by coffee. Trees of the wild type like rose-wood, anjili (Artocarpus), mullumurikku (Erthrina), several species of caussia and many other non-descrip varieties are still preserved here and there, to give shade to the coffee plants. These trees give a dembalance of wilderness to the landscape of Wayanad. In a majority of coffee plantations, the age-old species are replaced by the silver-oak which is suited to the cold climate. This tree grows quickly and its cultivation is widespread among coffee plantations for shade and for giving support to pepper. It is used for the plywood industry and thus is economical to the farmers. Eucalyptus grandis, a shorter variety of eucalyptus, whose fragrant smell suffuses the very air around it, is cultivated on a large scale in centain parts of the district. Eucalyptus oil is extracted on commercial basis from its leaves. Of the 20,864 hectares of reserve forest, the major portion is teak plantation. Arecanut palms and jack trees are also grown here. Tea is grown as an industry in large estates. The soil and climate of Wayanad are suitable for horiculture on commercial basis. For promoting the cultivation of vegetables and raising of orchards, the Kerala Agricultural University is running a Regional Agricultural Research Station at Ambalavayal. With the clearing of forests, the diverse and buzzling animal life, characteristic of the forests of Western Ghats, has vanished from Wayanad. One can still see the bonnet monkeys, loris, mongooses, jungle cats, squirrels, jackals, hares, etc. in the limited forest areas. Elephant, bear and other wild animals from the neighbouring wild life sanctuaries of Karnadaka and Tamil Nadu, stray into the Begur forest range and the forests around Muthanga, which is 20 kilometres away from the town of Sulthan Bathery.
Kabani river, one of the three east flowing rivers of Kerala, is an important tributary of the river Cauvery. Kabani and its tributaries constitute a powerful river system in the land scape of Wayanad. Panamaram rivulet takes its origin from the perennial lake called, 'Pookode lake'. It flows swiftly through mountain gorges and joined by other streams, tumbles down into Panamaram valley. Six kilometres further from Panamaram, this river joins with the Mananthavady rivulet, originating from the lower regions of the peak 'Thondarmudi'. From this confluence onwards, the river is known as Kabani, a mighty, perennial river which after entering Karnadaka State, joins with the river Cauvery. Almost entire Wayanad is drained by the Kabani river and its tributaries, namely, Panamaram river, Mananthavady river and Thirunelli river.
Places of interest
Chembra Peak: The hills, rocks and valleys which contribute to the very unique character of Wayanad provide a lot for adventure tourism. Trekking to the Chembra peak is a risky mountaineering endeavour. Chembra peak, the highest hill in Wayanad, is near Meppady town. Trekking to the top of this peak takes almost a day. Tourists can also stay one or two days at the top of the peak in temporary camps. District Tourism Promotion Council provides guides, sleeping bags, canvases, huts and trekking implements on hire. The scenic beauty of Wayanad, which is visible from the top of Chambra, is very exhilerating.
Edakkal Cave: This location of breathtaking beauty is three kilometres from Ambalavayal which is 25 kilometres from Kalpetta. The Edakkal cave in the Ambukuthy mountain, is not a cave in the real sense. As stated in the India Antiquary (Vol.XXX, page - 410) and quoted in the District Gazette, Kozhikode, it is only'a cleft about 96ft. long and 22ft wide in the rock'. It is a fissure made by a corner of rock splitting off from the main body due to some natural causes. The depth of both the cleft and the fissure is 30 ft. What makes it a cave to the ordinary observer is the fact that in the other portion of the large cleft, an enormous rock, weighing several tonnes, has fallen forming a roof over a large part of it. The rock wall contains some interesting carvings, which represent human and animal figures and objects of human use and symbols. These carvings speak of a highly civilized people of pre-historic age and inspires the archaeologists and historians to rewrite the history of Wayanad and Kerala as a whole.
Kuruva Island: The Kuruva island, 950 acres of ever green forest on the tributaries of east flowing river Kabani, is an ideal picnic spot, far away from the disturbances of city life. The island is uninhabited. Rare species of birds, orchids and herbs are the sovereigns of this supernal kingdom. It is 17 Kms. east of Mananthavady and 40 kms. north west of Sulthan Bathery.
Lakkidi: One of the highest locations in Wayanad, Lakkidi also commands a picturesque scenery. It is about 58 kms. north east of Kozhikode and five kms. south of Vythiri. Lakkidi, the gate way of Wayanad, lies atop Thamarassery, a ghat pass at an elevation of 700 m. above mean sea level.The lofty mountain peaks, the gurging stream, luxuriant vegetation and the bird's eye view of the deep valley on the south, with its winding roads, are breath taking. The 12 kms.long journey from Adivaram to Lakkidi through ghat road with nine hairpin bends amidst thick forests, is a fascinating experience.
Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary: Muthanga, Which is 16 kms. east of Sulthan Bathery, is located very near to the Karnadaka border. Wild forests covering an area of 345 sq.kms form the Muthanga wild life sanctuary; the biggest abode of wild animals in Malabar. Elephant, spotted deer, bison, tiger, cheeta, wild bear, etc. are found in this sanctuary. The forest Department has facilities for providing elephant rides to tourists, here.
Pakshipathalam: Pakshipathalam in the Brahmagiri hills at Thirunelli, is a challenging tourist spot for any adventure seeking tourist. To reach Pakshipathalam seventeen kilometres have to be covered through wild forest. The deep rock caves, formed among the thick blocks of rocks at the northern top end of the Brahmagiri, are the abode of various birds and wild beasts. Special permission has to be obtained from Forest Department to go to Pakshipathalam. District Tourism Promotion Council arranges vehicle, guides, camping equipments, etc. to the tourists, on hire.
Pazhassi Raja Tomb: Pazhassi Tourist Resort at Mananthavady is a good picnic centre in north Wayanad. There is a good aquarium here. Coin-operated toys for children and boating facilities for tourists are available here. Pazhassi Raja, the Lion of Kerala, who organised guerilla type warfare against British East India Company, was cremated here in 1805.
Pookot Lake: It is a natural fresh water lake, brimmed with ever green mountains. The weather here is salacious; the scenic beauty, hypnotising and the nature, unspoiled. Pookot lake tourist resort in Vythiri is the most sought after tourist spot of Wayanad. There is an aquarium and a green house here. Boating facilities are also available. Spices and handicraft items are also arranged for sale at Pookot. The lake has an area of 8.5ha. and the maximum water depth is 6.5mtrs. This lake is three kms.south of Vythiri.
Sentinel Rock Waterfalls: This waterfall is at Vellarimala village near Chooralmala in Meppadi panchayat. It is a picnic spot as well as a trekking centre. The sentinel rock, a rock of more than 200 m.in height, is ideal for rock climbing.
Kanthanpara Waterfalls: Relatively smaller than Sentinal Rock Waterfall and rather less frequented, Kanthanpara and its surroundings are nonetheless very pleasant. An easy hike away from the main road, it is perfect for picnic
Soochippara Waterfalls: The waterfalls at Soochippara near Meppadi is really a treasure of nature, yet to be discovered. The stretches of waterfalls ranging at places from 100 to 300 feet height is a treat to the eyes. The pool below, provides for water rafting, swimming, bathing,etc. The tree top huts at Soochippara give an unique view of the valleys of the Western Ghats and the glimmering shallow waters of the surrounding springs.
Banasura sagar Dam: This is the largest earth dam in India. The topography here is such that many islands will be formed in the upstream of the dam when the dam is full. These islands with the background of the Banasura hill will provide a hypnotising sight to tourists.
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