A simple bamboo bridge on the Manalar river here has connected generations of tribal people to the nearest main town of Valparai in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu and the settlements and the administrative centre at Societykudy on the other side.
The Muthuvans who live at Edamalakkudy have no vehicular access to Pettimudy, 18 km away, or on the other side to Nallamudy, near Valparai, which is also a steep climb of nearly 14 km.
During the monsoon, the village is cut off except for this bridge as Pettimudy becomes inaccessible due to landslips and flooded streams.
During this season the people use this bridge to reach Valparai.
The architect of the bridge and when it was built is unknown to the present generation of the Muthuvans.
The bridge is made of three strong bamboo canes that connect the two ends and is reinforced with tied bamboo canes.
To keep it steady, bamboo canes are also tied between the bridge and the top branches of the tree.
“The bridge has been there from time immemorial, and I remember crossing it even in my childhood. It was made by our forefathers,” says Megham, a senior member of the settlement.
“Each year, we do repairs such as changing the bamboo canes prior to the monsoon,” he says. Tribal women cross the bridge, even carrying children on their backs, delicately balancing on the bridge.
For over seven months, the Manalar cannot be crossed on foot, and the bridge is the only access across.
Though there are no historical records as to how the Muthuvans reached here, it is believed that they migrated along with the Mannan tribe to the forest during the Chera-Chola-Pandya wars.
There are 28 exclusive Muthuvan settlements at Edamalakkudy spread over a large area, and this lone bridge serves them all.