The rain is so intense that it could be a great idea to curl up in an armchair with a cup of piping hot black coffee and soothing music scored by Johnson master wafting through the air. But hitting the road when the heavens have opened up gives a different experience altogether. It is pure bliss to ride motorbike in downpour with heavy rain drops pounding you with vigour. The fingers will become numb and one can feel the throes of nature.
Presently, travelling to mountainous regions is fraught with danger as cloudbursts have triggered landslides and people living in high altitude areas have been moved to safer places with whatever belongings they had. So, where to go to have a meaningful journey?
Land of hookahs
Kozhikode in Kerala is the Malayalam version of Kolkata as it bears certain striking imprints of the metropolis in West Bengal. Both age-old cities have a perfect blend of literature and cinema. If Rabindra sangeet is weaving a spell in Kolkata, it is ghazal that is creating magic in Kozhikode. As one sets off from Kozhikode, the chances of stepping into a place steeped in history are pretty high.
The national highway to the north connects the Mahe bridge and the countryside of Thalessery to reach Kannur and stretches all the way to Panvel in Maharashtra, but this journey is not that long. Once you leave the perimeter of Kozhikode, the next big town is Koyilandy. After leaving Koyilandy, one would reach Kollam, not the Kollam which is on the southern side of Kerala. The Kollam of north Kerala is different and this is where ‘kaliyattom’ of ‘Pishari Kavilamma’ is staged. The next junction after Kollam market is Aanakulam and after that you should take the road on the right.
The sleepy Muchukunnu hamlet
The road will lead to the small village of Muchukunnu, which is the birthplace of K Kelappaan, who is popularly known as Kerala Gandhi. This nondescript hamlet gave the sought-after Koyilandi hookah (a water pipe to smoke tobacco) to the world. A government college sits pretty on the top of a hill and as one moves forward a banyan tree on the left side will welcome you. The Muchukunnu Shiva temple, which is surrounded by thick green vegetation, could be seen far ahead.
According to the state forest department, Kerala has 22 virgin forests across the state, and the grove of Muchukunnu Kotta is part of one of the virgin forests. The verdant forest of Muchukunnu Kotta is spread across 9.46 acres of land and the woodland houses rare trees that are included in the Red Data Book. Moreover, the forest cover boasts of more than 2,000 tree species, uncommon birds, snakes and butterflies. There are also hundreds of plants dotting the region.
The pristine beauty of the forest in full glory can be experienced as one enters the premises of the temple. The forest is maintained by the temple committee and the state forest department. An imposing wall and a granite entrance would catch your eye as you come near the temple. The pillars carved out of single stones are also a subject of fascination. As the temples closes at 10.30 am, it is better to reach the holy place early in the morning.
Plethora of walkways
A pathway laid with gravel on the left side of the temple will take you along the fringes of the green cover. At the end of the temple wall, a walkway on the left side will lead you through the forest and to a pond.
This picturesque pond and its stone steps are too familiar for the movie buffs who had watched the 1992 Malayalam flick Sargam as the scenic water body and its surroundings were featured in the film directed by Hariharan. The movie got many accolades including the national award for the best popular film and the state award for the best director. Gifted actor Nedumudi Venu, who passed away recently, essayed a character of mettle in the film. Actor Vineeth also donned a worthy role in the movie that was well received by critics and moviegoers alike.
In the movie, Nedumudi Venu teaches music to his son Vineeth by sitting on the stone steps of this pond in the midst of forests and latter is seen practising the nuances of music by standing neck deep in water.
As you relax on the steps of the pond, the movie’s popular song “Pravahame…ganga pravahame swara raga ganga pravahame…” will definitely regurgitate in your mind. It is on these steps that spoiled brat Kunjoottan, played by Manoj K Jayan, picks a fight with others in the film.
One may wonder when the pond was built or how much time was taken to complete the pond or who actually put in place the pond in the middle of the forest.
It is noteworthy that the pond was constructed following the architecture style of north Kerala. The pond was built by orderly placing red bricks without using cement as the binding agent and the steps were made by arranging red bricks in a triangular form. There are one or two more small ponds around the forest.
The water overflowing from larger ponds, which have enough recharge of aquifer, is routed through a canal to flow into the Akalapuzha River.
The Akalapuzha River, which is a bit far away from the temple, is a large expanse of water like the lakes of Alappuzha. The sight of a small strip of land with a small road dissecting the river into two is breathtaking, and a couple of Chinese fishing nets could also be seen on the horizon. One can also enjoy the beauty of the river up close in a boat.
The virgin forest, the temple, the pond and the Akalapuzha River are some of the gems that one would gaze in awe. And ‘Trip Calico’ will continue its journey to unwrap the hidden treasures of nature.