A BRIEF HISTORY
Comprising an area of 2126 sq. km, Wayanad has a powerful history. Historians are of the view that organized human life existed in these parts at least ten centuries before Christ. Countless evidences about New Stone Age civilization can be seen on the hills of Wayanad. The two caves of Ampukuthimala located between Sultan Bathery and Ambalavayal, with pictures painted on their walls and pictorial writings, speak volumes of the bygone era and civilization.
Recorded history of this district is available from the 18 th 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 became the ruler of Mysore, he invaded Wayanad and brought it under his sway. In the days of Tippu, Wayanad was restored to the Kottayam royal dynasty. But Tippu handed over the entire Malabar region to the British, after the Sreenagapattanam truce he made with them. This was followed by fierce encounters between the British and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Rajah of Kottayam. When the Rajah was driven to the wilderness of Wayanad, he organized the war - like Kurichya 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 history 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 Wayand, from Kozhikkod and Thalassery. These roads were extended to the cities of Mysore and Ootty through Gudallur. Through the roads poured in settlers from all parts of Kerala and the virgin forest lands proved a veritable gold mine 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 Kozhikkod 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 th district of Kerala.
The total geographical area and population of Wayanad are 2131 sq.km, and 7,86,627 respectively. The male and female population are 3,93,397 and 3,93,230 respectively. The female-male sex ratio is 1000 per 1000 males. The density of population is 369 per sq.km.(2001 census) against 315 in 1991.
The literacy rate in the region is 85.52 per cent. Male literacy rate is 90.28 and female literacy rate is 80.80.
Its geographical position is peculiar and unique. The difference in altitudes of each locality within the district presents a variation of climatic conditions. Nature has blessed this part of the country beautifully with mist-clad mountains and sylvan valleys. The idyllic nature of Wayanad, its nearness to Udagamandalam (Ootty) and Mysore with well-laid roads to these centres, offer tremendous tourist potentialities.
A visitor may be impressed by the extensive paddy fields of the district. Agriculture in Wayanad is equally divided between paddy and plantation crops, except coconut. The hills, which are deep blue in bright sunlight and mist-covered most of the time, juxtaposes with the green of these paddy fields. This infact, is a splendid spectacle.
The east flowing rivers of Wayanad are in striking contrast to the various rivers of the rest of Kerala. The river Kabani of Wayanad is a perennial source of water to Cauvery. The Penamaram rivulet, originating from Lakkidi and the Mananthavady rivulet originating from Thondarmudi peak, meet six kilometres north of Panamaram town and after the confluence, the river is known as Kabani.
Coffee is ubiquitous in Wayanad. It is cultivated in every panchayat, both in the form of large plantations and small holdings. The economy of Wayanad depends mainly on coffee. In Kerala, coffee is cultivated in an area of 75,057 hectors. With Wayanad district having the highest area of 66,999 hectares. Pepper is grown as an additional crop on trees that are groomed to give shade to the coffee shrubs. In Pulpally area, there are exclusive pepper gardens. Tea is cultivated in large estates.
Wayanad has the highest concentration of tribals in Kerala. They form 17.1% of the total population of the district. The aborigines of Wayanad have a great political tradition. This area was originally reigned by the Rajas of the Veda tribes. Later, political authority came to the Pazhassi Rajas of Kottayam royal dynasty.
The Kurichyas of Wayanad have a great martial tradition. They constituted the army of Pazhassi Veera Kerala Varma Rajah who engaged the British forces in several battles. The descendants of those warriors are still expert archers. The excellence of Kurichya archery has been exhibited recently, at various centres.
Wayanad has an agricultural economy and it has no major industry to boast of. Heavy industry will probably tilt the ecological and demographic balance adversely. The idyllic nature of this district, together with its colorful tribal life and brazing climate, willl make tourism pay rich dividends.
Developmental activities bringing about a change in the poor man's quality of life, through the co-operative sector. Adivasis are provided with a better deal in the economic life. There are 324 cooperative institutions. Of this, 40 SC-ST service cooperative societies cater to their farm and market requirements. Besides, there are three cooperative collective farms including the famous Sugandhagiri Project. A labour contract cooperative society for the benefit of Adivasis is also functioning here.
A notable feature of life Wayanad is that it is touched to its very roots by the operation of the nationalized, commercial and cooperative banks. The branches of these banks located in the remote areas of the district have a busy time during the marketing time of cash crops.
Wayanad lies between north latitude 11° 27' and 15° 58' and east longitude 75° 47' and 70° 27'. It is bounded on the east by Nilgiris and Mysore district of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively, on the north by Coorg district of Karnataka, on the south by Malappuram district and on the west by Kozhikkod and Kannur district.
Placed on the southern tip of the Deccan plateau, its prime glory is the majestic Western Ghats with lofty ridges interspersed with magnificent forests, tangled jungles and deep valleys. In the centre of the district, hills are lower in height, while the northern area has high hills and they give a wild and mountainous appearance. Some of the major peaks are Vellarimala, Banasura, Brahmagiri, Chembra, etc. ranging from 1,500 mts. to 2,100 Mts. height.
The eastern area is flat and open. Due to the peculiar terrain, there are east flowing and west flowing rivers. The low hills are full of plantations like tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom while the valleys have a predominance of paddy fields. The soil of Wayanad district is mainly of the forest type. It promotes a lushy luxuriant growth of vegetation which makes Wayanad clothed in uniform greenery. This district has 787 ha. under forests.
The altitude of Wayanad varies from 700 to 2,100 metres from sea level. The hill ranges of Vythiri taluk, through which the road from Kozhikkod ascends the Wayanad plateau over mind-boggling bends and ridges, are the highest locations. From the highest altitude of the Western Ghats on the western border of the district, the plateau of Wayanad gradually slopes down eastward. Further from Mananthavady, it becomes a common plain of paddy fields with the swift flowing Kabani coursing through it.
Elsewhere, Wayanad offers a panorama of undulating hills and dales which are converted into paddy fields. The hills which might have been thick forests once, are now plantations of coffee, tea or cardamom. There is a lushy luxuriant green all round. On a clear day from the river bed of Kabani, Wayanad will seem to be a fairy land with the deep blue mountains, the less blue sky and the white fluffy clouds midst.
Wayanad has a salubrious climate. The mean average rainfall in this district is 2322 m.m. Lakkidy, Vythiri and Meppadi are the high rainfall areas in Wayanad. Annual rain fall in these high rain fall areas ranges from 3,000 to 4,000 m.m. High velocity winds are common during the southwest 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 29° C and 18° C respectively. This place experiences a high relative humidity which goes even up to 95 per cent during the southwest monsoon period.
Generally, the year is classified into four seasons, namely, cold weather (December-February), hot weather (March-May), southwest monsoon (June-September) and northeast monsoon (October-November).
The dale, ‘Lakkidi", nestled amongst the hills of Vythiri taluk has the highest average rainfall in Kerala. The average rain fall in Wayanad is 300 mm. per year. There is a decreasing trend in rainfall in this area. The average rainfall data shows that the lowest rain fall received from northeast monsoon, is in Wayanad district.
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 nondescript varieties are still preserved here and there, to give shade to the coffee plants. These trees give a semblance 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 certain 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 also grown here. Tea is grown as an industry in large estates.
The soil and climate of Wayanad are suitable for horticulture on commercial basis. For promoting the cultivation of vegetables and raising of orchards, the Kerala Agricultural University is running a regional Agricultural Reserach Station at Ambalavayal.
Elephant, bear and other wild animals from the neighbouring wild life sanctuaries of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, stray into the Begur forest range and the forests around Muthanga, which is 20 kilometres away from the town of Sultan Bathery.
The population of the district, according to 2001 census, is 1,86,627 of which male population is 3,93,397 and female 3,93,230. The density of population is 369 per sq. km.
Strictly speaking, there is no urban population in Wayanad. However, life in Sulthan Bathery, Mananthavady and Kalpetta is in the process of gaining urban status.
This shows that there was an influx of settlers to Wayanad after the Second World War. The economic slump, difficulties and miseries creeping as a result of war into the life of common people, compelled them to seek ‘pastures anew' on the virgin soil of Wayanad from all parts of Kerala and Karnataka. In the first year of settlement, thousands succumbed to malaria and the attack of wild animals. Those who survived these and the cold conditions, cleared the forests and transformed Wayanad into a paradise of prosperity.
RELIGION AND CUSTOMS
No religion can be said to be predominant in this district. The different religious group of the state are more or less equally represented. A characteristic aspect of Wayanad is a large adivasi population. Though they are in the Hindu fold, primitive forms of worship still prevail among them. Ancestral worship and offerings to propitiate the spirits of ancestors are still prevalent. Two deities commonly worshipped by the Adivasis are Thampuratty and Vettakkorumakan. They also worship by the Hindu Gods of various temples in the district. Adivasis do not have any temple of their own. Paniyar, Adiyan, Kurichyar, Kurumar, Kattunaikkar, Kadan and Oorali are the different aboriginal tribes of Wayanad. The Kurichyar are the most developed among them. They are small landowners, whereas the members of other tribes are mostly labourers.
Some of the centuries old temples and their Brahmin settlements suggest the earliest attempts that were made to bring the Adivasis under the Hindu religious fold. The Thiruvelli and Valliyoorkavu temples which are known outside Wayanad as the temples of Adivasis, are in fact run by Hindu settlers with the help of brahmin priests. Adivasis are allowed to workshop and participate in the festivals of these temples. More than anything else, the myths woven around the temples including the one about Sita (lord Sri Rama's consort) and her two sons Leva and Kusa, have drawn the aboriginal mind to the Hindu system of belief.
Wayanad has small Jain community consisting of the Gounders who came from Karnataka. They have built beautiful temples all over the district.
Almost all sections of Christianity are well-represented. The Syrian Catholics have their Bishop's house at Sulthan Bathery and the Roman Catholics have their own at Mananthavady. The Bishop's house of the Jacobite Syrian Church is at Meenangadi. One fourth of the population of Wayanad is constituted by Christians. They are the largest religious group in Wayanad. A section of Kurichyas of Mananthavady has been converted to Christianity.
Muslims constitute another one fourth of the population. They are the Moplas who came from Malappuram and Kozhikkod districts. A large number of them are labourers. Muslim women labourers are a usual sight here. Hindus of different castes like Nairs, Thiyyas, etc. who settled here from different parts of Kerala, form the rest of the population.
For the purpose of revenue administration, the district is divided into three taluks, namely, Sulthan Bathery, Vythiri and Mananthavady. There are 49 villages under these taluks. There is one revenue division and that is Mananthavady.