Celebrated as the granary of Kerala, Palakkad is a vast expanse of verdant plains interspaced with hills, rivers, mountain streams and forests. The gateway to Kerala from the north, a 40 kilometer break in the mountains known as the palakkad gap gives access to this land situated at the foot of the Western Ghats. The pass acts as a corridor between Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu and played a major role in the trade contacts between east and west coasts of peninsular india. Deriving its name from the Malayalam words Pala (Alsteria Scholaris) and Kadu (forest), this place was once a beautiful stretch of forest covered with sweet scented flowers of the Pala tree. A potpourri of Tamil and Kerala culture, some of the finest carnatic musicians hail from the region which continues to be a largely agrarian society.
PLACES TO GO
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary : [110 km from Palakkad] Sprawled across 285 sq.km, the wildlife sanctuary is home to many rare wild animals. Boating and cruising facilities are available at the parambikulam reservoir. The rest houses of the state forest department Thunakkadavu, Ilikkal and Anappady offer accommodation. The tree house in the reserve forest in Thunakkadavu has to be booked in advance. One of the oldest and the largest teak trees in the world can be seen here. The Kannimara teak with a girth of 6.57 m and a height of 48.5 m, said to be around 360 years old, is a remnant of the wild teak that grew in this area which now houses cultivated teak plantations.
Malampuzha Garden : [Open 10am – 6pm] Around 10 kms from Palakkad town, this is a famous picnic spot, which comprises of a dam and beautifully landscaped gardens, is situated on the lower hills of the Western Ghats. The garden is penetrated with lush lawns, flower beds and fountains. The key attraction includes a rose garden and an aerial ropeway.
Tipu’s Fort/Palakkad Fort : [Open 8am – 6pm hrs] The old granite fort situated in the very heart of Palakkad town is one of the best preserved in Kerala. It was built by Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1766. The fort was taken over and modified by the British in 1790. Well preserved by the Archeological Survey of India, there is an open-air auditorium and a small museum inside the fort. The landscape environs of the fort now hosts a children’s park and temple known as Kota Ambalam (fort temple).
Rock Garden : [Open 10am – 6pm] Designed by Shri. Nekchand this is the only only rock-cut garden in South India. Boating and fishing facilities are available here. A well maintained swimming pool, a freshwater aquarium, a snake park and a children’s park are other add ons.
Silent Valley National Park : [55 km from Palakkad] The 90 sq.km national park is believed to be the sole surviving bit of evergreen forest in the Sahya Ranges. The peculiarity of the Silent Valley Forest is that it is even devoid of the chirping of cicadas. Vehicular transport is possible only up to Mukkali, nearly 24 km from the park. The rest of the way has to be covered by foot, up to the source of Kunthipuzha, which flows through the valley before merging into the Bharathapuzha river. The closest to a virgin forest in the entire Western Ghats, the Silent Valley National Park is home to India’s last substantial stretch of tropical evergreen forests. It’s difficult terrain and remoteness shelters a large number of wild animals.
Nelliyampathy : [75 km from Palakkad] This is a fascinating hill station at a height of 467 to 1572 m above sea level. At least 10 hairpin bends have to be negotiated on the Ghat road that passes through the breathtaking evergreen forests of the Sahya Ranges. Seethakundu at Nelliyampathy offers a panoramic view of Palakkad. This hill country is a delight of trekker’s. The District Tourism Promotion Council of Palakkad provides good accommodation facilities here.
PLACES TO SEE
Attappady : [60 km from Palakkad] A beautiful synthesis of mountains, rivers and forests, Attappady is of great interest to anthropologists as this is the home of many tribes like the Irulas and Mudugars. The Malleeswaram Peak is worshipped as a gigantic Sivalinga by the tribals who also celebrate the Sivarathri festival with great gusto. A PWD (Public Works Department) Rest House, and a few private hotels offer accommodation at Agali.
Chinakkathoor Vela : The colourful Chinakkathoor Pooram is held annually at the Sree Chinakkathoor Bhagavathy Temple in Palappuram near Ottapalam. The highlight of this festival include a grand procession of 33 tuskers in the evening and Panchavadyam reciitals (It’s a traditional temple orchestra – in addition to various art forms).Tholpavakoothu, ritualistic shadow puppet show, is presented at the temple premises every evening for 17 days preceding the festival. Another beautiful sight is the procession of sixteen elaborately decorated horse effigies brough ceremoniously to the temple by the devotees.
Kunjan Nambiar Smarakam, Lakkidi : [30 km from Palakkad] Regarded as the creator of Ottan Thullal, Kunjan Nambiar is said to have created this art form on being ridiculed for falling asleep during a Chakyarkoothu performance. He created history with his brand new dance form – a solo dance and a classical satirical art form, which always has an absorbent storyline relevant to contemporary issues. The poet’s house in Killikurissimangalam has been renovated and preserved as a memorial.
Kalari Kovilakom : Built by the senior most lady in the royal family of Kollengode, 124 years ago, this three-tiered palace is today a reputed centre for Ayurveda. For those serious about understanding the holistic benefits of Ayurveda, Kalari Kovilakam would be an excellent choice.
Mayiladumpara : [25 km from Palakkad] This grove at Nedungathpara takes its name from the large number of peacocks (Mayil) found here that can be sighted often at dawn and dusk. Around 200 peacocks inhabit the extensive forest of the Mayiladumpara Sanctuary. Not bound by gates, the sanctuary which has been home to peacocks since ages, allows free access to visitors.
Olappamanna Mana : [Located at Vellinezhi, Cherplassery] The ancestral home of feudal lords belonging to the priestly Namboodiri Brahmins of Cherplassery, who have made significant contributions in the fields of Kathakali, percussion,classical music, literature, Vedic education, Sanskrit learning. This heritage house is patronised by Pattikkamthoti Ravunni Menon who developed the modern Kathakali – Kalluvazhi Chitta. Reputed patrons of the arts and the progenies of the clan preserve their heritage including the 300 year old mana.
Ottapalam : [35 km from Palakkad] This temple town is known for its numerous places of worship and their colourful festivals. It is also home to the famous Varikkassery Mana, where Malayalam films are shot almost round the year.
Ramassery : [8 km from Palakkad] This nondescript village is famed for its special idlis that are quite different from the common South Indian variety. Round and flat, almost shaped like a dosa, these idlis are extremely soft and delicious. The recipe has been passed down from generation to generation and is well-kept family secrets.
PLACES OF WORSHIP
Jainamedu Jain Temple : [3 km from Palakkad town center and near Kalpathy River] The 32 ft long, 20 ft wide granite temple displays images of the Jain Thirthankaras and Yakshinis. The region around the temple is called Jainamedu and is one of the few places in Kerala where vestiges of Jainism have survived. Palakkad was once home to a community of 400 Jain families, but only a few families remain today. The temple is open from 7am – 10:30am & 5pm – 7pm.
Manapullikavu : [3.5 km from Palakkad Fort] One of the two major temples in Palakkad besides the Vadakkanthara temple, the idol here is swayambu (self-created). The main idol in the sanctum sanctorum was a later installation. Vela festival in February/March is the main celebration here. The temple is open from 6am – 10:30am & 5pm – 7pm.
Thiruvalathoor : [8 km from Palakkad] The ancient temple here has some fine woodwork and stone sculptures. Legend has it that the outer wall of the temple was built by an army of gods who worked at it the whole night but left it unfinished by dawn as they didnt want to be seen by humans. Despite efforts later on, the work could not be completed. The 4000 stone lamps fixed on the wall when lit up at night is a beautiful sight. Another attraction is the mizhavu- an instrument that is commonly used while performing the art forms of Chakyarkoothu and Koodiyattam, which is said to be the biggest among such existing ones.