The people of Uravu Bamboo Grove village have found a fresh lease of life in the bamboo plants which colours the hillsides of Wayanad. This village is showing to the world the sheer versatility of bamboo and its various varieties and how it has turned out to be their main source of livelihood. Thrikepatta which showcases various forms of bamboo artwork is today a tourist destination. For the last four or six months, foreigners and north Indians have come here to explore the village as well as to learn the art of making bamboo artifacts. Uravu village is a model panchayath for turning their main source of livelihood into responsible tourism.
The Swiss connection
Corrin Carlaganis from Bern in Switzerland who married Wayanad native Shivraj is the owner of Uravu Bamboo Grove Resort Tourism. If you want to know Corrin’s life story it is important to know the life story of Bamboo Grove Resort Managing director Shivraj.
Right from the time, he was studying at Malabar Christian college, Shivraj was interested in social service. When he embarked on a journey to study the life of the Wayanad tribal community, his classmate Sreelatha was also with him. They helped the people who were making a living from bamboo by creating a community for them called Uravu. The idea was to make artifacts and interior designs with bamboo. Foreigners arrived to learn bamboo art and craft. Meanwhile, Sreelatha and Shivraj got married and they had a son, Sidharth. But unfortunately, fate had other plans in store for them. Sreelatha who was teaching in a college passed away due to ill health. A devastated Shivraj plunged himself into Uravu work.
It was during this time that Corrin landed at Thrikepatta to learn the life of Wayanad. Soon she met Shivraj and first became his partner in Uravu and later, in his life.
It’s been 14 years since Uravu came into being. Around the same time, Uravu became Thrikepetta’s tourist attraction. “It’s been five years since Uravu opened to foreign tourists. Uravu’s art centre is where the bamboo arts and crafts are being made. We like to call it an art gallery. The Uravu package consists of Mannikkunnu mala, bird watching, trekking, a day with a farmer, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional cuisine experimentation, bamboo nursery visit. The visitors can live at Uravu Bamboo Grove resort. The bamboo grove is made of bamboo with all the modern amenities,” explains Corrin about Uravu facilities.
50 types of Bamboo
At the border of Thrikepatta village there are many bamboo trees. The kind of bamboo varieties that are not very familiar to Malayalees—Illimula, Vallimula, Neelan mula, yellow bamboo, dwarf bamboo, tiny bamboo, etc. You can spot these varieties at their Bamboo nursery that has over 50 varieties of the plant. Earlier they use to earn their livelihood by making mats, baskets, and other items with bamboo. Contrary to what many people think, bamboo is grass, not hardwood. This classification deems it an opportune medium to weave into baskets.. Bamboo baskets can be decorative or can serve as a place to store magazines, craft supplies, or other items in your home.
Uravu found a space for these artisans to exhibit their wares. Books made of bamboo, flute, gramophone speaker, etc. were the things made here. Uravu gives employment to 200 families. They are directly and indirectly part of the Uravu community. That’s also the best sight at Thrikepatta. They add an organic mixture to improve the lifespan of raw bamboo leaves. If you dry bamboo with biomass it is guaranteed to get a life period of 20 years. Here homes are built with bamboo mixed with concrete. Curtains made out of bamboo husks are a specialty here. You can also see bows and arrows, mini boats, ornaments made of bamboo. Another attraction at Uravu is the bamboo nursery where you can buy various species of bamboo seedlings procured from various parts of India. There is a lovely community study centre for children. The engineering glory of the community centre is reminiscent of an opera theatre’s architectural skill. It was the Uravu engineers who designed the walls and roofs with ropes and bamboo.
Bamboo grove resort
Those going on a tour to Wayanad can book the Bamboo grove resort. The pillars, roofs, and walls of the resort are made of bamboo. It is said that the resort was made by planting bamboo on the hillside of the village. The interiors of the resort with nests of hornbills, woodpeckers, squirrels, and parrots are surprisingly modern. The bedrooms, bathroom, and verandah of the resort are lined with cement-filled palm leaves. The bamboo resorts include a honeymoon cottage designed by Indo-Swiss architects, a tree-top style eco-nest, a rock-built jungle, and a still in the wild that lends an atmosphere of a jungle. Daily packages are available from 12 noon to noon the next day. But then the visitors return a week later. The guests are served the food made by Thrikepatta homemakers.
Uravu Package tour
Manikunnu trekking, bamboo craft class, painting class, bird watching, yoga, cooking class, ayurvedic care, art gallery tour.
Places to stay and visit nearby
Edakkal cave: Famous for their paintings of figures: human, animals, symbols, and letters. These paintings are believed to date back to 6000 BC. The etchings and prehistoric line drawings are a testament to the culture and lives of those who lived in the caves years ago.
Banasura Dam: Largest earth dam in India and the second largest in Asia, the Banasura Sagar dam is located at Padinjarethara near Kalpetta in Wayanad. An ideal place for boating and trekking, the place also has a garden. It is among the most popular picnic locations in the district along with its multitude of boating options.
Soochipara falls: Also known as Sentinel Rock Waterfalls is a three-tiered waterfall in Vellarimala.
Meenmutti falls: Is a three-tiered waterfall with a height of 300 metres
Karapuzha Dam: Is one of the biggest earth dams in India.
Sulthan Bathery Jain temple: The Bathery Jain Temple, dating back to the 13th century, is said to have been built in the prevalent architectural style of the then reigning Vijayanagar Dynasty. Tipu Sultan set up his battery at this site, and today the entirety of Sulthan Bathery is named after the same.
Wayanad Heritage Museum: Said to be one of the best heritage museums in Kerala, this museum houses fascinating items from tribal communities dating back to the second century AD. It has a rare collection of several ancient instruments & tribal artifacts like jewellery, hunting and fishing weapons, farming instruments, a fine collection of 14th - 16th century sculptures, etc. Ancient terra cottas, stone weapons, and local art are also on display at the museum).
Kuruva Island: Located in the middle of Kabini river.
Chembra mala: It is said to be the highest peak in the district.
Karlad lake: It is the third-largest freshwater lake in Kerala.
Pookode lake: It is a natural freshwater lake nestling amid evergreen forests and mountain slopes at an altitude of 770 meters above sea level.
Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary: It is the second-largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala and attracts thousands of tourists round the year with its lush green forest that promises endearing views and experiences hard to forget for years. Muthanga consists of tropical moist dry deciduous, evergreen forests, bamboo thickets, and plantations, and is home to many varieties of birds and animals. The Sanctuary has a large population of pachyderms and has been declared a Project Elephant site. Elephants roam freely here, and tigers are sighted occasionally as well. Various species of deer, monkeys , and birds also live here.
Tholpetti Wildlife sanctuary: It shares the border with Nagarhole and Bandhipur and is located in Tholpetty and stretches for 350 sq. kilometres and comprises of the vast culture of flora and fauna which are truly rare to find in the populated areas. You should try a jeep ride at the Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary and witness herds of elephants, guars, deer, monkeys, tigers, leopards, bears, and many species of reptiles, fishes, butterflies, and birds including vultures. Besides, you get to see tuskers, multicoloured birds and butterflies, and many vines when you traverse through the entire spot.