P. Anima travels to Kottakadapuram where history, hope and Nature’s hues converge on its shore
Kottakadapuram is a promise; delicate, quaint and unassuming. The monsoon this season has left its signature on this estuary. The Arabian Sea embraces the Kotta River in tumultuous fury now.
Kottakadapuram, situated in the village of Iringal, about 50 km from Kozhikode, has renowned neighbours. Past, present and future find ways to co-exist amicably in this coastal region. The land of the Kunjali Marakkars, the traditional naval admirals of the Zamorin of Calicut, provides vignettes to the past dating back five centuries. Legends are not in short stock either. Iringal, however, is not bogged down by the past. Today, it is the hub of traditional crafts. At Sargaalaya, the craft village, artisans from across the State converge to rekindle dying crafts. They mould earthen pots on traditional kilns, braid bamboo, jute, plantain and hyacinth stems into bags and mats, weave, paint and make jewellery.
The land on which the craft village rests was once a granite hillock said to be as tall as 300 feet until miners laid their eyes on it. Legend has it that the Kunjali Marakkars kept tabs on Portuguese aggression from the sea standing atop this hillock called the Iringal para. Middle-aged locals recall a childhood spent climbing up and frolicking at the top, taking in an uninterrupted view of the sea. The dwarfed hillock offers no such view today, but continues to be a landmark. Mining has left large, dangerously deep canyons around it and in the monsoon it becomes an intriguing water body. The mining has stopped. Tourists now boat around the Iringal para.
Deeper inside the village are the remnants of the house of the Kunjali Marakkars, now a museum and also the mosque where weaponry is kept. The museum, though, has been closed for months for renovation.
But the revelation is the unpretentious Kottakadapuram. Couple of kilometres from the craft village one gets a hint of the things to come as the sea takes up a side and becomes the incessant background score. Noushad, a local employed at the craft village, points at velliankallu, a miniature rock deep in the sea. At low tide, people can travel by boat to it, he says.
At the mouth of Kottakadapuram is a turtle conservation centre, a local initiative at saving the Olive Ridley. Five large turtles make merry in the tank. Between September and March is when the numbers turn mind-boggling. No one is in sight at the one-room enterprise. But the quaint tale that led to it is neatly written out on the walls. Apparently, a native sleeping on the beach found 140 turtle eggs by his side. After making merry on 70 of them, he took home the rest and buried them beneath his bed. With no sign of baby turtles even after 40 days, he was beginning to get dejected. But on the 47th day, young turtles were all over his house. Sending these young ones to the sea has over the years become a ceremony of sorts in the village. Anyone who finds eggs now brings them over to the conservatory where they are hatched. A community that nonchalantly fed on them once, now lovingly lets them come alive.
Kottakadapuram is about small sights — wide open little pink flowers, grazing cows and waves that spit forth a larger spray each time. Coconut groves take over, habitation thins and quiescence envelops the houses. A couple of men soak in the lazy afternoon. Women look up from washing vessels. The only other sign of human presence is the intermittent piles of broken rubber slippers dotting the sandy path.
The slushy pathway thins out to the sands of the beach. The high-tide of afternoon contrasts the serenity of the Kotta River. Wrapped by the river on one side and the sea on the other, the land in between is a play of bright green vegetation and grey sand. After tussling with belligerent sand for a while, one reaches the point where the river and the sea meet. Even for the familiar ones there is surprise in store. Where their cattle grazed once is now washed over by the sea. The swollen sea has eaten up the trees on the shore and surges forward taking up more with each wave. The sea forms a neat semi-circle at the edge. At the river bank men collecting shells are just more than a speck. At the end of the horizon is a private island. As the sea gears to lap up more, someone comments, “Nature retaliates at some point”.
Kottakadapuram is a short drive from the craft village at Iringal, about 50 km from Kozhikode. Stay at Kozhikode and drive down to Kottakadapuram.
WHAT TO DO
Enjoy the sea, get a dose of history and take home craft work.