Palakkad – Ancient Heritage and Natural Beauty
Palakkad, which was previously known as Palghat, is both a district and a town located in central Kerala. It’s situated in an area where a natural break in the Western Ghats provides easy access to the neighboring state, Tamil Nadu. Due to its location on the border, both Malayalam and Tamil (the language of Tamil Nadu) are spoken in Palakkad. The district gets its name from the words Pala, a type of tree that used to grow in abundance, and Kaddu, which means forest. The Pala trees have made way for Palmyra trees and rice fields, which occupy most of the land in the district. With silhouettes of the mountains in the background and the lush greenery all around, the district has spectacular scenery.
Due to its location at the pass between the two states, many invaders and settlers came to the district in the ancient times to access the spice trade in Kerala. As a result, Palakkad has traces of varied culture and heritage, which can be seen in its temples and palaces. In addition, with its proximity to the Western Ghats, several natural parks and reserve forests are within easy reach.
While it is ranked seventh among the most populated towns in Kerala, Palakkad, is not as commercialized as some of the other tourist centers in the state, and provides ample options for a short vacation spent visiting monuments, wildlife sanctuaries or getting ayurvedic treatments.
In the heart of the town is an old fort, referred to as Tipu’s Fort, which was built by Hyder Ali in 1766 and later occupied by his son Tipu Sultan. The British took possession of the fort in 1790. The fort is a monument that comes under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India and is currently used as an administrative office of the local government. Spread over 5 acres, it is noted for its architecture. The square shaped fort has a moat running around its perimeter. The nearby maidan, which is now a venue for exhibitions and events, was earlier the stables for elephants and horses in Tipu Sultan’s army.
The 500-year old Jain temple, which is located in the western suburbs of Palakkad town, is a granite structure with idols of Jain Tirthankaras and Yakshinis. Believed to have been constructed for a Jain head, Inchanna Satur, the temple was once the home to a community of over 400 Jain families.
Around 19km away from the town is Kollengode, which is named after its resident community of blacksmiths. The Kollengode Palace is worth seeing for its typical Kerala architecture, including tiled roofs and open courtyards. It houses a museum that displays artifacts such as megaliths, manuscripts and model of temples, which were recovered from the forests in the nearby regions such as Thrissur and Wayanad. Notable among the exhibits are the Veerakallu – well-preserved ancient sculptures of heroes and warriors.
Located 10km away from the town, the Malampuzha Dam and Gardens is a popular picnic spot among the locals. The dam, which was built over River Bharathapuzha, is surrounded by lush, beautifully landscaped gardens, which include a rose garden and rock garden. The gardens are worth a visit to take in the beautiful scenery of the mountains surrounding the large reservoir.
The 15th century Shiva temple at Kalpathy is one of the oldest in the Malabar region. The surrounding village community, which is inhabited by Tamil Brahmins, is a World Heritage Site that is frequented by tourists who want to learn about the culture and way of life of the community. The temple is renowned for its annual chariot festival, which is held in November. It is a grand spectacle, which features beautifully decorated chariots taken through the streets by devotees.
Silent Valley National Park
Around 90km from Palakkad, in the Kundalli Hills along the Western Ghats, the Silent Valley National Park is a pristine natural reserve that preserves the unique biodiversity of Malabar rainforests. The park remains largely unspoiled due to its difficult terrain. It has the crystal waters of River Kundhi running through its 90 sq.km area and has over 1000 species of plants, 34 species of animals (including tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wild dogs, wild boar, sambar, barking deer, spotted deer, elephant, civet, langur and macaque monkeys, among others), more than 150 species of birds and 200 species of butterflies.
Palakkad makes a perfect stopover for visitors travelling by road from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, who are looking at experiencing its unique offering of nature and culture. Besides sightseeing attractions, the district also has reputed ayurvedic retreats, where travelers can check in for week-long treatments aimed at detoxification and rejuvenation.