Shilpa Nair Anand travels to Kerala’s ‘cradle of wind’ and describes the view from there
A gentle slope leads to Kuruvan mount at Ramakkalmedu. The climb is easy. On a sunny bright day vehicles can go up further, the driver says. Half way through the climb (not more than 200 metres) a shape materializes from what seems to be the other side of the hillock. And then suddenly there is a huge sculpture, in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. Step in front for a closer inspection and what a view!
Welcome to Ramakkalmedu, Kerala’s ‘cradle of wind’. The name suggests a legend and the sculptures another. The obvious one is to do with the Ramayana. There are a couple of versions of it. One says Rama came here looking for Sita, and is said to have set foot on the tallest rock (‘kal’ is stone or rock in Malayalam). Another is that Rama and Sita came there during their exile and rested on the said rock. The Kuruvan and the Ramakkal mounts face each other.
Now about story behind the sculptures or rather the couple depicted in the sculpture: the sculpture is of a Kuruvan and Kuruvathi (tribal or hill folk) and is of very recent origin, 2005 actually. Fatumma (or Fatima), who is employed at Ramakkalmedu to pick up plastic bottles and other garbage left behind by visitors, enlightens the interested tourist. “The Kuruvan and Kuruvathi showed the British the site for the Idukki dam. And then when the dam didn’t ‘sit’ properly,” she lowers her voice by several notches and whispers, “they were sacrificed. And the dam ‘sat’. This ‘statue’ is for them.” The sculpture has a tribal couple and child looking at the plains of Tamil Nadu. The sculptures look pensive and sad – or is it the effect of Fatumma’s story?
More than legends or the stories, it is the view that is amazingly wow-inspiring. Ramakkalmedu is on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. On one side you can see Theni and the windmills beyond it; on a clear day with binoculars maybe the Vaigai dam and Madurai. On the other side there is Cumbam. It is a place to feel ‘on top of the world’. Although folks recommend Ramakkalmedu on a bright and sunny day, getting there on a day of moderate rain is recommended. You can see the mist rolling in, literally. It gets misty but wait a while and it clears up quick (on a day of moderate rain, not when it pours). One minute you see everything and the next you may well be the only person on earth!
There are a couple of shelters, ostensibly to take shelter from the rain. The shelters are like mantapams, open on all sides except the roof. Ramakkalmedu is a place which has winds blowing at around 25-30 kmph – constantly. So even if there is a drizzle you get wet, shelter or no shelter. Look right from Kuruvan mount and it looks like Tamil Nadu has a farm of windmills, look left and on the Kerala side too there are wind mills. Atop hills and lush green forests they stand, majestically going round and round.
Ramakkal mount is for the adventurous. You can trek up the hillock: the climb won’t be more than a kilometre or so, but worth your while. Fatumma calls out to a couple of youngsters and warns, “Be careful. If you fall off from there, neither will we get you nor will Tamil Nadu.” The view from Ramakkalmedu at night is like standing above the sky and looking down on the shimmering sky. City lights twinkle like stars on a clear sky.
Fortunately, unlike other ‘hill stations’ there are practically no shops here, which is why the place is clean. Fatumma and her assistant keep an eye on visitors and any waste they might leave behind. It seems like a good time to declare the area a plastic-free zone, considering what plastic has done in other places.
Ramakkalmedu is around 45 km from Thekkady and 80 km from Munnar. The nearest railway station is Kottayam (140 km). The nearest airport is at Kochi (190 km). There is a hotel at Ramakkalmedu. You can also stay at either Kattapana (20 km) or Idukki and drive up to Ramakkalmedu.