Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Silent Valley, MalamPuzha and Palakkad Fort

Silent Valley National Park, MalamPuzha and Palakkad Fort


Silent Valley in Palakkad (Palghat) district, Kerala is a mysterious place. Nestled in deep evergreen forests, this place has remained away from humans, and hence is able to protect its unique flora and fauna.

Palakkad (Palghat) comes in malabar region of Kerala. This region consists of six districts Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Wayanad.

I came to know about this place recently and since then was in a mood to have a visit there. As Government is not promoting tourism there, to protect it from inflow of tourists, the option to stay are limited.

With some patience, I got a room in Forest Department Inspection Bunglow at Mukkali.


Mukkali is the entrance to magical and mystical Silent Vally national Park. This place is about 65 Kms from Palakkad Town.

Pravin accompanied me on this trip.

We started from Bangalore,on friday evening by KSRTC Volvo to palakkad, reaching there at 7 AM, Saturday.

From Palakkad, direct buses to Mukkali can be taken at municipal bus stand. Otherwise one can take a bus to MannarKad and then to Mukkali.

Silent Valley National Park is located in the Nilgiri Hills, Palakkad District in Kerala. It has a core area of about 236.74 square kilometres (91 sq miles).


The park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of tropical moist evergreen forest in Western Ghats in India.

These evergreen rain forests are extremely fragile and is a nursery of huge variety of flora and fauna, some of which are said to be found nowhere else in the world.

We got down at Mukkali via mannarkad and headed towards the Inspection Bunglow.

It was quite good, but only problem is that they dont serve food. For that we had to remain dependent on a few small eating joints of "Hotel New Star", "Hotel Friends" etc.

The area is locally known as "Sairandhrivanam" meaning Sairandhri's Forest. As per "Mahabharat", Sairandhri is Draupadi, the wife of the Pandava brothers, who disguised herself as Sairandhri, while they were in exile. Deprived of their Kingdom, they wandered south India, into what is now Kerala, until one day they came upon a magical valley, where "rolling grasslands met wooded ravines, a deep green river bubbled its course through impenetrable forest, where at dawn and twilight the tiger and elephant would drink together at the water's edge, where all was harmonious and man unknown".



Beside that river, in a cave on a hill slope, the Pandavas halted. They called the river with their mother's name "Kunti Puzha" (Puzha means river in Malayalam).


The River Kunti (Kunthi) descends from the Nilgiri hills, from an altitude of about 2000 meters above sea level, and traverses the entire length of the valley.

In 1847, an Englishman, the botanist Robert Wight ventured into the area. He discovered an uninhabited, barely penetrable forest, where after nightfall there was silence unlike other forests, the Cicadas comforting call could not be heard here after dusk. Thus perhaps the Sairandhri, the unpronounceable was rechristened as Silent Valley.


We got ready quickly and were ready to explore the "Sairandhri Vanam".

From Mukkali forest office, a Jeep has to be hired to visit the core area of Silent valley. A guide is also a must. In our case, the driver himself acted as a guide.

Jeep plus guide cost is 1000 Rs. Then there is forest entry fees as well as camera fees.

With thrill, we boarded the Jeep.

After about 3-4 Kms, I realised that I am missing my mobile phone. I got a bit nervous and asked the driver, Kumar to return back to the forest office. Luckily I got my mobile back. Though there was good rush there, but one kind forest official had kept my mobile safely.


Now we were on the way. The destination was the Watch Tower, and the Kunti River (KunthiPuzha) deep inside the core area of Silent Valley. These are the only places open to general public.

This is about 24 Kms from Mukkali.


As we started covering distance, the forest became quite dense. It was silence indeed, except the characteristic sound of jungle, the noise of Cicada.

The Jungle ground was filled with dead decaying leaves. The tall trees were not allowing the rays of Lord Anshumaan to reach till ground.

Cicada sound was overwhelmed by some other strange sound (perhaps macaque or other animals) a couple of times.

Silent Valley is home to the largest population of Lion-tailed Macaque, an endangered species of Primate.

Kumar stopped the vehicle, a malabar Giant squarril was playing on a tree. We thought of taking a few snaps qucikly, but it vanished behind trees.

We got a better view of these giant squarrils, while we were on our way back.


Silent Valley is home to rare bird species e.g. great Indian Hornbill, the Red winged crested cuckoo, Malabar Pied Hornbill etc. The most abundant bird is said to be the Black bulbul.

We saw a few birds but could not recognise them.

The animals that have home here are Gaur, Niligiri Langur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Tahr, The Tiger, Leopard, Jungle cat, Sloth bear, wild boar, Sambar and deer etc.

In 1973, the Kerala State Electricity Board decided to implement the Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project (SVHEP) centered on a dam across the Kunthipuzha River. The resulting reservoir would flood 8.3 km² of virgin rainforest and threaten the Lion-tailed Macaque.

The plight of probable destruction was came to public attention through Romulus Whitaker (Madras Snake park and Crocodile Bank) and the legendary Salim Ali.

In 1983, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, decided to abandon the Project and on November 15, the Silent Valley forests were declared as a National Park. On September 7, 1985 the Silent Valley National Park was formally inaugurated and a memorial at Sairandhri to Indira Gandhi was unveiled by Sri. Rajiv Gandhi. On September 1, 1986 Silent Valley National Park was designated as the core area of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

After about 90 minutes, we reached the watch tower.

It is about 100 steps high made of iron.


Next to watch Tower is the inaugration stone by the then PM of India, Shri Rajiv gandhi. A ditch is around that foundation stone, perhaps to save it from destruction from elephants.



The view from top is just amazing and breathtaking. Miles and miles of greenery, the blissful sound of wind, the thrilling sound of Cicada and other forest animals, all made it very exciting.

The high mountains were playing with winds and clouds. The mystical mists came, kissed the mountain tops and disappeared as Lord Anshumaan came out with glory....

In a deep gorge below, KunthiPuzha (Kunti River) was seen descending from higher ranges. Its origin is somewhere these mountains about 2000 mts above sea level.

We spent quite good time on top.

Then we descended and follwed a trek of about 1.5 - 2 Kms to KunthiPuzha. The guard there told us that its very steep, full of leeches, dont throw plastic and such things. We vowed to follow his commands.

The trek is very exciting, but yes quite humid and ground was wet with dead leaves. Sun beams were struggling to touch the ground. If our driver and Guide, Kumar would not have been with us. I bet, we would have lost in the wilderness.


Fortunately for us, leeches did not botherd, through I was carrying salt as an antidote. Another group of tourist, perhaps got attacked by these blood thirsty ceratures and they were jumping to throw them away.

We reached the banks of Kunti river. there is a old hanging bridge over it. The clear waters of KunthiPuzha were flowing gently below.


We crossed the bridge and just viewed the beauty of nature. This was the last point till where the tourists are allowed.


Then we returned back to watch tower. While we were returning back, we saw a few Nilgiri Langurs playing on trees.

Also, on a tree, we saw the pug markings. I am not sure if it belongs to bear or tiger/leopard. But was quite fresh, may be it was done last night, by one of these creaures to declare its territory.


The total to-and-fro journey took around 5 hours. We were badly tired. Tried to get some snacks, but could not get something good to our taste so satisfied ourselves with Bread/Jam.

We retired to our Inspection Bunglow room and took rest for sometime before venturing out for dinner.


Suddenly power went off and it was pitch dark. We struggled with our small torches. About 30 minutes later the power came and allowed us to take our dinner at "Hotel New Star" in peace.

We retired to our room. The gentle flow of BhavaniPuzha (Bhavani River) just behind the Inspection Bunglow could be heard.


At around 2:30 AM, I got up as I felt cold. I switched off the fan. I noticed the strange sounds coming from forest. But could not concentrate much, was down with heavy sleep.

Sunday morning, we decided to explore the BhavaniPuzha behind the Inspection Bunglow.


It was a perfect painting theme. Lord Anshumaan was coming to glory, rising from behind the tall mountains and forests. The river was making way through the forest and stones. A few gentlemen were meditating and taking bath....

We came back to room and got ready. After some discussions, we decided to explore MalamPuzha that day.

We took the breakfast in the form of leftover Bread/Jam and boarded the Bus to Pallakad. We got down at Ovalakod. This is about 5 KMs before Pallakad town and on way to MalamPuzha.

From Ovalakod, we boarded the bus to MalamPuzha, which is 10 km from Palakkad town.

MalamPuzha Garden

It was a hot and humid afternoon. We were sweating profusely.

There are four major attractions at MalamPuzha town; Snake Park, Aquarium, Ropeway and MalamPuzha garden.


First of all, we went to Ropeway. It as well as Aquarium is towards left side of the gates of MalmPuzha Garden.

Please note that the entry of Snake Park, Aquarium, and Ropeway at MalaPuzha is seperate. None of these can be accessed from inside the MalamPuzha Garden.

Ropeway is total 1252 meters long to and fro. It takes about 20 minutes to cover this distance. It gives a breathtaking view of MalamPuzha Garden and river below.

It is always moving, One has to board and disembark it while moving. I felt it to be a uncomfortable if one is with small kids.

Next attraction was the small aquarium nearby.

We were quite hungry by now and so went for a thaali meal.

We now headed towards Snake park, which is on right side of MalamPuzha Garden.

This snake park is not as big as Guindy Snake Park at Chennai. But it also has a wide variety of venomous and non venoums snakes, including King Cobra, Cobra, Krait, Vipers, Rock Python, Rat Snake etc.

Next destination was MalamPuzha garden. The main attractions of this garden are Dam, Children's park, boating facilities etc.

Within the MalamPuzha Gardens, across the river, is a large cement sculpture named Yakshi, created by the famous sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman.

We took a full circle of garden. There are two hanging bridges on river. There is also a lotus pond and swimming pool.

We crossed the river and then near the wind mill, stepped up the formidable stone walls of the dam.The reservoir on the other side provides excellent view of water body and misty mountains.

After spending some time there, we stepped down and took refuge below the shades of a tree.

The construction of dam began in 1949 and completed in 1955.

After taking some rest in the shades of a tree in MalamPuzha garden, at around 330 PM, we took a bus to Palkkad. We wanted to have a visit to Palakkad fort.

Palakkad Fort

I love forts. They takes me to to past..I feel, I becomes one of these structures, who have witnessed so many peace and war times, year after year.


This fort is said to have existed from very ancient times. It is mentioned in the Allahabad Inscription, that mighty King SamudraGupt visited Palakka (Palakkad) in 2nd/3rd century AD.

It is believed that this fort was re-constructed in present form in 1766 AD by Hyder Ali.

A lot of ancient idols and pillars have fond from this small fort which are kept for display at Information gallery inside fort. This gallery is open till 5 PM and the fort till 6 PM.

A few government offices and a small Jail also operates from inside fort.

Until 1790 the fort was continually in the hands of the Mysore Sultans or the British. It was first taken by the latter in 1768 when Colonel Wood captured it during his raid on Haider Alis's fortresses, but it was retaken by Haider a few months later. It was recaptured by Colonel Fullarton in 1783, after a siege that lasted eleven days but was abandoned the following year. It later fell into the hands of the Zamorin’s troops. In 1790 it was finally captured by the British under Colonel Stuart. It was renovated and was used as a base for operations that ended with the storming of Srirangapatnam in 1799 AD.

We visited the Information gallery and took a full circle of fort walking through the fort walls. One tree in a corner near to Information gallery seems to be quite old. Perhaps it had seen the times of Hyder Ali and Britishers.

It was becoming evening. We boarded a bus to KSRTC bus stand.

We passed sometime sitting there and chatting and taking tea/juice etc. We took a early dinner at around 7 PM.

Our Bus to Bangalore was at 9:45 PM.

At around 6 AM, Monday, we were at Bangalore.

PS:
The nearest Railhead is Palakkad Junction in Kerala. which is nearly 60 Kms away from the base camp of the National Park, Mukkali . Coimbatore Junction in Tamil Nadu is also 45 km away from Mukkali. But in my view, its better to approach through Palakkad, as from Coimbatore frequent buses may not be there.

There are no hotels to stay at Mukkali. There are a few rooms available at Forest Inspection Bunglow as well as a dormitory at Mukkali.

There are a few "restaurent" to eat there. For lunch/dinner. they need to be informed in advance.

Palakkad/Mannarkad are better places to stay. From there one can easily have a day visit to Silent Valley. But still forest officials needs to be informed about your visit so that Jeep can be arranged. Private vehicles are not allowed inside national park territory.

To book the above a mail need to be send to Wild Life Warden, Silent valley National Park at  mail@silentvalley.gov.in
PH: 04924-222056

17 comments:

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  3. Thanks for sharing the post.I tried to book Mukkali IB last month,but difficult to get.Can you tell me if its really worth to go there on a photographic perspective?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Deepu, Thanks for comments. It is a very nice place to be but I agree its difficult to get the accommodation. Another thing is that I am not sure if forest officials will allow to go to the core area, I heard that its stopped, but please call them and confirm.

      Delete
  4. Hi Alok,

    Thanks for sharing about Palakkad Attractions. I am from Palakkad and settled in Bangalore since 2003. I wondered you have missed out another beautiful attractions in Malampuzha called Rock Garden and Kava which are the most amazing spots over there. Rock Garden is located near to Tripenta Resort, Malampuzha. Kava is located around 20 KM away from Malampuzha. You have to take left turn from Ropeway entrance and proceed to reach Kava. You can enjoy the amazing beauty of Western Ghat, Forest and Malampuzha Reservoir throughout the journey to Kava.

    Palakkad is also blessed with beautiful temples. Kalpathy Heritage Temple and Village Complex, Sree Guruvayoorappan Temple, Jain Temple, Thiruvalathur Temple etc are few among them. Parambikulam Wild Life is also located in Palakkad District, but you have to travel around 150 km to reach there. Meenvallam Waterfalls, Siruvani Forest are other major tourist attractions in Palakkad. Nelliyampathy Hills is a very famous hill station in Palakkad located 85 km away from the City.

    You can enjoy all in your next visit.

    Regards,

    Biju
    9986508229

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Biju for comments,

      Yes definitely I will cover the places that you mentioned in my next trip. I have heard a lot about Nelliyampathy Hills, so for sure I will plan.

      Thanks,
      Alok

      Delete
  5. So beautiful pictures and great stuff thank you for sharing us.

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  6. Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post. Thanks so much and let keep on sharing your stuffs. Nelliyampathy Hills, Palakkad | Kerala Tourism

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  7. Great post about Palakkad!! thanks for sharing this wonderful post in your blog. Its really awesome to look into this blog. Pictures were really awesome and it inspires me to travel to those places. Planning for your visit? then book your bus tickets in advance in Parveen Travels.

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  8. Said in the Indian epic Mahabharata, the backwoods of Palakkad are presently saved as the Silent Valley National Park in the territory of Kerala.
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