The gigantic bird sculpture on Jatayupara in Kollam district gives life to an epic. It is the largest bird sculpture in the world and from a distance it seems that the carved mammoth figure is touching the sky. The sculpture is a visual feast for people travelling to Thiruvananthapuram on the MC Road. The statue, situated in Chadayamangalam, is the brainchild of popular film director and sculptor Rajiv Anchal.
Jatayu Earth’s Centre
While travelling on the MC Road, one could see the huge bird sculpture with its clipped wings just before reaching Chadayamangalam and the gateway to Jatayupara is also from the MC Road. The Jatayu Earth’s Center, also known as Jatayu Nature Park, is an eco-garden worth a visit. The facility has ample parking space and there are pathway and cable car service to take visitors to the top of the peak. Those who are into trekking can walk through the pathway, which is amidst the forest, to the hill top and passes will be issued to visitors from 9.30am to 5.30pm. The cable car has four cabins with each cabin having a carrying capacity of eight persons. People travelling in cable cars can get an aerial view of the lush greenery of the region.
The bird’s eye view of the valley from atop the peak is breathtaking, to say the least. Outside food packets, water bottles and big bags are not allowed to the top of the hill. Jatayupara has stalls that sell snacks and cafes. Toilet facilities are also available.
The Jatayu statue
It took close to 15 years to put in place the statue complex atop the hill. Before going near the sculpture, just enjoy the aesthetics of this huge work of art from a distance. The story of Jatayu featured in the epic Ramayana is etched on the rock in Malayalam, English and Hindi languages. Decorated Malayalam poet ONV Kurup’s touching verses on Jatayu is also inscribed on the rock. Legend has it that the Jatayu bird fell on the rock after its wings were clipped by Ravana as the divine bird tried to save Sita from the clutches of Ravana. Later, Rama granted ‘moksha’ to Jatayu as the bird fought valiantly to rescue Sita. And that’s how this rock got its name Jatayupara (para means rock).
Presently, visitors are not allowed inside the Jatayu complex as work is still progressing inside the structure. On the right side of the main entrance it is written that the sculpture is dedicated to safety of women and honesty. It is also mentioned that the statue is dedicated to women as Jatayu, though a bird, stood for the safety of women.
Though it is pretty hot during daytime, the strong breeze will provide a relief from the searing heat. The expansive gallery is a striking feature of the Jatayu complex and other points of interest include Ram temple, Rama ‘paadam’ and ‘Kokkarani’ (holy water reservoir).
What is ‘Kokkarani’
‘Kokkarani’ is situated behind the Jatayu statue. It is a holy water reservoir but visitors can’t go near it as it is barricaded. It is worth noting that the water body won’t dry up even in the peak of summer. The myth behind this reservoir is also related to Jatayu. According to legend, the injured bird, which was thirsty, stroked its beak against the rock and water spouted. It is said that the shape of the holy reservoir is like a spot where a bird’s beak had been rubbed and that’s how it got its name ‘Kokkarani’. Another story that is doing the rounds for long is that Kokkarani’s water is red as the blood of Jatayu got spilled into the pond.
Jatayu Kodandarama Temple
The Ram temple was constructed three to four years ago and its main deity is Lord Rama who gave ‘moksha’ to Jatayu. Other idols in the temple include that of Sita, Lakshmana, Ganapati, Dakshinamoorthy, Sooryadevan, Jatayu and Hanuman. The Jatayu Ram Temple, which was re-consecrated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, is currently under Jatayupara Kodandarama Temple Trust. Daily poojas are conducted at the temple and the main offering is ‘vanarayoottu’ (feeding of monkeys). Rice is served to hundreds of monkeys seen in the vicinity of the temple every evening.
Another legend has it that the rock bears the footprints of Rama, who came here in search of Sita, and the holy footprints are preserved in a glass box. A ‘kedavilaku’ (an undying lamp) could also found near the Rama ‘paadam’. The undying lamp was first lit by Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the Travancore royal family. Devotees visiting the temple often recite the ‘Jatayu stuti’ mentioned in Adhyathma Ramayanam.
There is a pathway in the forest that leads to the Ram Temple and pilgrims and others take this route to reach the holy place. Work has also started to build steps to the temple. People coming to Jatayupara also visit the Ram temple.
The Jatayu sculpture, Ram temple, Rama ‘paadam’ and ‘Kokkarani’ are some of the beautiful vistas of Jatayupara. Hundreds of people flock to this beautiful spot where nature and man’s creation blend perfectly. The sights from atop the rock are not only a feast for the eyes but also give a soothing effect to the mind.
At the base of Jatayupara, children can have a gala time at Wonder World Reality, a game park. A ‘12D Rider’ is also present to regale the grownups. Undoubtedly, the Jatayu Earth’s Center provides great entertainment and amazing view for the visitors.