Marayur

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Marayur
town
Kovilkadavu.jpg
Marayur is located in Kerala
Marayur
Marayur
Location in Kerala, India
Coordinates: 10°16′29″N 77°09′36″E / 10.274735°N 77.160032°E / 10.274735; 77.160032Coordinates: 10°16′29″N 77°09′36″E / 10.274735°N 77.160032°E / 10.274735; 77.160032
Country  India
State Kerala
District Idukki
Area
 • Total 224.99 km2 (86.87 sq mi)
Population (2001)
 • Total 20,575
 • Density 91/km2 (240/sq mi)
Languages
 • Official Malayalam,[Tamil language
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Telephone code 91 – 4865

Marayur or Marayoor is a town in Idukki district of Kerala, India. It is located 42 kilometers north of Munnar on SH 17 connecting Munnar with Udumalpet, Tamilnadu. Marayur is the only place in Kerala that has natural sandalwood forests. Ancient dolmens and rock paintings in Marayur date back to the Stone Age. As of 1991 Marayur had a population of 9,590.[1]

Etymology[edit]

The most probable meaning of the place name is the Uru (Village) of Maravars; a tribe lived in this area during the turn of Christian Era, who used to attack travelers for looting, hiding in the forest. The word meaning is 'people who hide'. They were traditionally members of the army of tribal chiefs and the Maharajas of Chera, Chola and Pandya. The name Marayur is also said to be derived from two words “mara” and “ur”, in Tamil language. “mara” means hidden and “ur” means land. Another argument is that the name Marayur is derived from the words “mala” and “ur”, “mala” means mountain and “ur” means land, hence it was meant to be “the land of the mountains”, as the land is surrounded by mountains. Some scholars toyed with the idea that it can be both “mara” and “mala” as the name Marayur could be interpreted as the land hidden by the mountains.[citation needed] Legend has it the great Pandavas of Mahabharata epic, had stayed in the area during their exile and so the place was named as ‘Maranjirunna ur’ or the land (they) hide. Later it became the land’s name “Marayur.”[citation needed]

History[edit]

Marayur claims to be a part of a Stone Age civilization that is as old as 10,000 B.C.[2][3] It is also home to a later period of large-scale dolmen-building.[4] The land and its unique dolmens, caves, rock edicts and engravings declare its rich heritage. People migrated from Tamil Nadu to this area when the Madurai king Thirumalainaicker was defeated by Tippu Sultan, in the eighteenth century CE. Migrated people created five villages which are Kanthalloor, Keezhanthur, Karayur, Marayur and Kottakudi. These villages were called as ‘Anju nadu, literally meaning “five lands”. However these place names are very old and aboriginal tribes still live in these villages, with their unique customs.

Megalithic Dolmens[edit]

Dolmens of Marayur

Also called Muniyaras, these dolmens belong to the Iron Age. These dolmenoids were burial chambers made of four stones placed on edge and covered by a fifth stone called the cap stone. Some of these Dolmenoids contain several burial chambers, while others have a quadrangle scooped out in laterite and lined on the sides with granite slabs. These are also covered with cap stones. Dozens of Dolmens around the area of old Siva temple (Thenkasinathan Temple) at Kovilkadavu on the banks of the River Pambar, and rock paintings on the south-western slope of the plateau overlooking the river have attracted visitors. Apart from the dolmens of Stone Age, several dolmens of Iron Age exist in this region especially on the left side of river Pambar as is evident from the usage of neatly dressed granite slabs for the dolmens. At least one of them has a perfectly circular hole of 28 cm diameter inside the underground chamber. This region has several types of dolmens. Large number of them are overground with about 70–90 cm height. Another type has a height 140–170 cm. There is an overground dolmen with double length up to 350 cm. Fragments of burial urns are also available in the region near the dolmens. This indicate that the dolmens with 70–90 cm height was used for burial of the remains of people of high social status. Burial urns were used for the burial of the remains of commoners. The dolmens with raised roof might have been used for habitation of people. Why some people lived in the cemeteries has not been satisfactorily explained.

Rock paintings[edit]

Ancient rock paintings are part of Marayur heritage at Attala, Ezhuthu Guha (literally means “cave of writing”), Kovilkadavu and Manala in Marayur panchayat. Attala is situated in the west part of Marayur Township and more than 90 painted motifs can be seen here. The rock paintings of Attala are situated in a colossal east facing rock shelter 1500 meters above mean sea level. Most of the paintings at Attala are abstract designs except for a few human and animal figures. Ezhuthu Guha rock paintings are sited in the Koodakavu Sandalwood Reserve Forest at Marayur in the Marayur Panchayat at an elevation of 1000 meters above mean sea level. More or less 90 painted motifs can be seen here. However, as the place is the most famous rock art site in Kerala, it attracts a large number of visitors and has been extensively vandalized since it was brought to wide public attention. Kovilkadavu is less than five kilometers from Marayur town and the place is famous for Neolithic dolmens and rock paintings. Ten 10 painted motifs are located on the south-western slope of the plateau overlooking the Pambar river. There is a rock painting at Manala in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary of Marayur near the Alampetty tribal settlement. Here, a picture of a deer and a man can be seen. In close proximity to this art site, a new rock painting has been newly discovered.

Topography and Climate[edit]

The terrain is highly undulating with altitudes ranging from 500 m at Chinnar to over 2300 m at Nandala malai, and the same varying topography of Marayur can be observed in Marayur with mountains, rain forests, deciduous forests, riparian forests, scrub forests, brooks, Paddy Fields, river, waterfalls, rocky hills, sholas and hamlets. Natural vegetation includes tropical evergreen forests and grasslands. Soil type is forest loam with a high organic matter content. The climate in Marayur is characterized by mild wet winters and hot dry summers. Temperature in winter (November to January) may go down to 20 degrees Celsius and in summer it may go up to 36.2 degrees Celsius. Marayur winter is not frigid cold as considerable sunshine is also characteristic to this region even during rainy winter. Summer is humid and hot with blazing sun. Generally Marayur experience a moderate climate, temperatures varying 21 °C to 27 °C with minimum seasonal variation except in winter. The plains are generally warm but the higher altitudes are cool. The annual rainfall in Idukki district varies from 250 to 425 cm. However, it is also recorded that the annual rainfall had gone up to 700 cm in certain years. The Eastern and North-Eastern regions of the district get very low rainfall in contrast to other areas. This may go up to 150 cm at Marayur, Kanthalloor, Vattavada and Thalayar regions. Marayur and Kanthalloor are virtually rain shadow areas, lying in the eastern side of the Western Ghats.

Flora and fauna[edit]

Walkway through the sandalwood forest

Marayur has more than 1000 species of flowering plants and is a well known repository of medicinal plants. There are 114 endemic species and the sighting of Aibizia lathamii, a critically endangered tree, was recently reported from the dry forests. Chinnar - the wildlife sanctuary in Marayur - has recorded the largest number of reptilian species, including the mugger crocodile, in Kerala. With 225 recorded species of birds, it is one of the richest areas of south India in avian diversity. The forests in Marayur preserve a population of the endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel. The rare white bison has been recently reported in Chinnar wildlife sanctuary. Other important mammals found are elephant, tiger, leopard, guar, sambar, spotted deer, Nilgiri thar, common langur, bonnet macaque etc. The phenomenon of butterfly migration occurs in between the monsoons.

Maryoor contains a number of sandalwood forests, and is the only[citation needed] place in Kerala where natural sandalwood forest is present. Processing of sandalwood and its associated oil forms part of local economy, a depot near Marayur town supporting this industry. Sandal wood or Santalum album is a parasitic tree having a fragrant and close-grained yellowish heartwood. Sandalwood oil, also known as ‘liquid gold,’ is extracted from the roots and wood of sandalwood. This oil is a costly item marketed at a few choosy outlets all over the state. A climate with low rainfall is suitable for the growth of choice sandalwood trees from which good quality oil can be extracted. The 93 km² Marayur reserve forest is believed to have about sixty thousand naturally grown sandalwood trees, of which nearly 2,000 trees had been allegedly plundered in just one year since January 2004, when the last survey was conducted. The auction rate for first quality Marayur sandal is quoted at Rs. 1100 per kg, according to forest department sources (2004).

Tribal community in Marayur[edit]

The two major tribal groups in Marayur are Muthuvans and Hill Pulayas. The tribal population in Marayur still preserves their unique customs and traditions. Muthuvans and Hill Pulayans are the major tribal groups in Marayur and Kanthalloor. Their reluctance and refusal to social development has changed very little and they are being motivated continuously for a better life. However, it is uncertain if interaction with Modern India actually constitutes a better life, so it is understandable that they are cautious. The language that they speak had very little connection with Malayalam and was a derivation of Tamil having a peculiar accent.On the other hand it is probable that both Tamil and Malayalam originated from such tribal languages.[citation needed] The tribal populations in Marayur are aborigines and they prefer a secluded life fostering their own traditions and customs. They tend to be highly superstitious, believing in animism and totem worship. They prefer their own medicinal system; the tribal medicines are mostly plants and herbs. Both tribes strictly practice endogamy.

Muthuvans[edit]

According to tribal legends Muthuvas were loyal subjects of the dynasty of Madurai. When the dynasty was deposed, the surviving royal members migrate to Travancore, central Kerala, and established the famed Poonjar dynasty. On their way to Kerala, the Muthuvas carried the idols of Madurai Meenakshi, the deity of the royal family, in their backs. The word Muthuvas seems to be stem out from the word "muthuku" which means back in Tamil and Malayalam languages. The tribe which carried the idols in their muthuku later settled in the forests near Tamil Nadu, and came to be known as Muthuvans. Presently, there are 84 settlements of the Muthuvan tribe. They speak in their own dialect. The Muthuvans tribe is very independent and reluctant to contact with outside world. Many do not trust the civilized world and are hesitant to partake education. Some remain an exclusive tribe which refuses to connect with other tribes and outside world, while others are beginning to be open to outside people and western medicines. Women of many of the settlements are prohibited to have contact with outside clan or other people, especially other men. During their menses, the Muthuvan women are usually secluded in the bamboo huts not allowing even to talk or see men outside their tribe. The dress is generally more conservative than the bright colors of non-tribal Indian dress. The major cultivations of Muthuva tribe are ragi, cardamom and lemon grass.

Hill Pulayas[edit]

Hill Pulayans or Malapulayars are the least economonically developed[citation needed] among the tribal population staying in the Marayur and Kanthalloor. Tamil speaking the population has its own unique and traditional customs, as well their own ancient art forms. They stay in small huts in the secluded forest areas. They do manual labor and collect forest produce to augment their income.

Places of Interest[edit]

Thoovanam Waterfalls[edit]

Thoovanam Waterfalls
Thoovanam.jpg
Thoovanam Waterfalls
Location Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Coordinates 10°18′00″N 77°10′30″E / 10.3°N 77.175°E / 10.3; 77.175
Elevation 1400 ft

Deep within the Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary lies the spectacular Thoovanam water falls. The river Pambar flows eastwards through the sanctuary and forms the waterfalls. The enormous waterfall on the Chinnar River, with its breathtaking silvery cascade is a major tourist attraction. As a part of wildlife tourism, the Wildlife Department allows tourists to visit the falls. Guided trekking from Karimutti Forest Station can be arranged to Thoovanam waterfalls. Trekking through the pristine scrub forest offers advantage of watching wild animals and rare flora from the path when venture deep into the forest. Many endemic and rare species enrich this dry and deciduous forest.

River Pambar[edit]

Among the 44 rivers in Kerala, three rivers flow eastwards. They are Pambar, Kabani and Bhavani. The Pambar River originates in the Anaimudi Hills and flows between Kanthalloor and Marayur Villages.It joins with Chinnar and crosses the interstate boundary and becomes the Amaravathi River in Tamil Nadu, reaches the Amaravathi Reservoir and eventually joins the Kaveri River near Karur.

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary[edit]

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is located 18 km north of Marayur on Udumalpett road. It is one of the famous places for wildlife tourism in South India. Marayur is the gateway to Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and shares its western boundary with Eravikulam National Park and is contiguous with Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary in Coimbatore district to the East.

Chinnar Watchtower[edit]

In Chinnar, a watch tower is accessible to tourists for a minimal charge with the permission of the forest department. From this watch tower tourists can observe animals like deer, monkeys, langurs, elephants. The lofty watchtower provides a panoramic view of the entire park, stretching all the way to the jungles in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu and the majestic mountains far away.

Mannavanchola[edit]

The Evergreen Rain forest, Mannavan Shola is the largest shola forest patch in Kerala, is near Kanthalloor. This is a 14 km² of unique ecosystem facing devastation. The vegetation, including many rare and endemic flora and species are part of Marayur’s great natural wealth. This is one of Kerala's unique and delicate ecosystems forever. The biggest high altitude moist-rain forest in the peninsula, located at altitude of 2100 meters. This great shola region is the haven of many rare and common species of animals, birds and plants. Mannavan shola was notified as a reserved forest through an order of the Government of the erstwhile Travancore State on October 22, 1901.

Kanthalloor[edit]

Kanthalloor is part of Marayur and known for its extensive winter vegetable and fruits cultivation. This place is unique in that various types of fruits and vegetable are grown round the year.major crops are orange, strawberry, passion fruit, marathakali, plum, sugarcane, onion

Marayur Sarkkara[edit]

Sarkkara is dark brown sugar balls made of condensed sugarcane juice. It is also known as jaggery or "gud" (Hindi). Each lump or ball of jaggery might weigh up to 1.5 kg. Sugar cane is a major crop of Marayur and Kanthalloor. In sugarcane farms, there are small jaggery factories that manufacture jaggery. The best jaggery in India is produced in Marayur. It is therefore of great demand in households across the country for the preparation of sweets and relishes.

Rajiv Gandhi Children’s Park[edit]

Rajiv Gandhi children’s park is located in the heart of Marayur. The serene park is spread across a hectare under the vast canopy of a single banyan tree that attracts tourists and local population alike. From the park one can spot monkeys, deer and other animals in the adjoining reserve forest.

Eravikulam National Park[edit]

Eravikulam National Park is 97 km2. in extent, situated along the crest of the Western Ghats in the High Ranges of Idukki district of Kerala state, India.The Park holds the largest viable population of the endangered (IUCN) Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius).Apart from tahr, the Park is the abode of other little known fauna such as Nilgiri marten, ruddy mongoose,small clawed otter,dusky striped squirrel etc.

History[edit]

Eravikulam National Park harbours the largest surviving population of Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius). This endangerd animal is endemic to the southern Western Ghats. Its nearest relative is the Himalayan tahr. The fully grown male is known as 'saddle back' is much bigger and darker than the female and has a silvery saddle like patch on its back. Mating takes place during monsoons and the birth season is January–February. The estimated population of tahr inside the park is about 700. Wild dog, leoperd and tiger are the main predators. Apart from tahr, other little known animals such as Nilgiri marten, small clawed otter, ruddy mongoose, and dusky striped squirrel are also found. Elephants make seasonal visits.

Ecology[edit]

About 120 species of birds have been recorded which include endemics like black and orange flycatcher, Nilgiri pipit, Nilgiri wood pigeon, white bellied shortwing, Nilgiri verditer flycatcher and Kerala laughing thrush. Endemics confined to the shola-grass land ecosystem like the red disk bushbrown and Palni fourwing are among the 100 odd butterflies listed inside the park.

The shola-grassland ecosystem is a strange admixture of temperature and tropical qualities due to the combined effects of altitude as well as latitude. It is exceptionally rich in orchids and balsams. The spectacular mass flowering of the shrub neelakurunji (Phlebophyllum kunthianum) takes place in the grasslands in cycles of the 12yrs. The next neelakurunji 'outburst' is due in the year 2006.

Lakkom Falls[edit]

Just near Marayoor lies Lakkom falls, which is an excellent place to visit and spend time with your family. There is a bamboo house for bachelors are also available to stay only for 5 persons.

References[edit]