Into the jungles of Wayanad
It is quite certain that not even a single lion can be found in the forests in Kerala. But my journey through the forests of Wayanad is in pursuit of a lion’s den -- the Perya forest which was the hideout of Pazhassi Raja, the Lion of Kerala who fought against the British till his last breath.
As I reached Kunhome village located on the eastern border of the forest, the only place I heard about in the locality was Kungichira. This place is beleived to be the place where Kodumala Kungi, the sister of Pazhassi Raja’s lieutenant Edachena Kungan, rested during her journey to Wayanad.
The two-km road from the Kunhome junction will end at Kungichira. This is a small reservoir against the backdrop of dense forest. A fine statue of Kungi was installed here recently while the construction of a museum is going on at the site. An electric fence separates this spot from the forest using. For tourists, Kungichira offers a magnificent sight and a calm atmosphere.
To know more about this region, I walked to the adjoining Kurichya Colony and entered the first house I saw. It was a small old house. The house owner, Puthiyodathu Konthil Vellan, was so happy when I told him that I wanted to know more about Kunhome. Vellan, a talkative old man, described that the jungle of Wayanad is mysterious land. He deputed his son Surendran as my guide and directed him to show me the remains of Pazhassi Raja’s fort.
In between, Vellan’s wife requested me not to leave without having the breakfast. In no time, she brought me steaming Ragidosa and curry. I wasn’t expecting that much a treat.
Vellan further showed me the bows and arrows kept in the pooja room and the weapons in his possession included arrows used to hunt birds, sharp-tipped ones and so. He told me that he would go hunting inside the forest once in a year as part of a ritual.
I thanked him for the warm welcome and started walking towards the forest in the company of Surendran. The 25-year-old man is the descendant of Thalakkal Chandu who was the soldier of Pazhassi Raja. I wondered who else could show me the way other than him.
When we were walking through the colony, Surendran’s relative Balakrishnan and two boys Sandeep and Sanu joined us. Sandeep is a class IX student whereas Sanu is in 6th grade. They were talking about a big stadium inside the forest. Negotiating the path through the human habitations comprising tiled houses and huts we reached the forest border separated by the fence.
The stadium, known as Chappayil ground, was massive. I haven’t seen such a place during my previous trips to the forests across the state. They said it requires half-an-hour to take a walk around this ground. The villagers’ cattle were grazing. Surendran said they used to play cricket and football here in the evenings.
We passed the ground and headed towards the forest. Balakrishnan, who knows the details of Pazhassi Raja’s fort, guided us.