Madayipara is a capricious, moody beauty. The hillock responds to each season in vintage ways. After the rains, this 950 acres of plateau, is a green carpet. With the hint of spring, it is a sea of blue and white flowers. When autumn comes, the long thatching grass wears a golden coat. In unrelenting summer, it is sapped of colour and the hill is the hue of hay. Even on a harsh April noon, Madayipara is charming.
Many characters converge to make this table top. History, religion and myth nestle with exquisite flowers, butterflies and birds here. Situated in the Madayi panchayat in Pazhayangadi, Kannur, this laterite hillock is about 45 metres above sea level. Madayipara is fenced on the western side by the Ezhimala hills, on its east, the Pazhayangadi River swells and flows and on the north is the Chembalikundu/Ramapuram River. The Arabian Sea is at the south end of the horizon.
An open stretch, Madayipara embraces all and sundry with equal fervour. Pilgrims stream in buses, auto rickshaws and taxis to pay obeisance to the deities at the two temples here. Evenings are taken over by revellers and picnickers. The former leave their signature broken beer bottles, while the latter pitch in with plastic shards and pouches. China clay mining diligently chews up a face of the hillock. Beyond a stone fence, Madayipara slips into a canyon. Earth, turned into brown, black and white lakes and mounds, make the mining canvas, while fully loaded trucks stand in the middle. Stray houses, half-done buildings and full-fledged colleges, dot the landscape. Madayipara and its biodiversity await a kind intervention to remain itself.
As eagles circle the clear, afternoon sky, K.P. Chandrangadan, a proud local and environmentalist, informs us that Madayipara was once a vulture haven. According to lore, till about 50-60 years ago, tigers ventured into Madayipara in certain seasons to feast on the grazing cattle. The vultures came in to feed on the leftovers. With farming and cattle rare in Madayi today, there are no tigers and vultures. Chandrangadan shows us a cactus shield within which hunters from Wayanad waited to shoot tigers in the past. He says there were about 12 cactus groves on Madayipara used for tiger hunt. Now there is just a specimen piece for the inquisitive.
At one end of Madayipara is the ancient Vadukuntha Shiva temple, said to be destroyed by Tipu Sultan’s cannons. It was rebuilt by spirited locals in the 1970s. The temple pond is natural and self-nourishing. Wrapped by rocks, it never dries up, informs Chandrangadan. When the temple was being rebuilt, they attempted to clean the pond. When water was being pumped out, they found a cavity in the middle from which water kept gurgling out. Attempts to measure the cavity bore no results.
Madayipara has its share of history too. It is believed that the Jews fleeing persecution were given shelter here. A large, square pond, painfully shaved out from tough laterite, still exists. On one side are wide, crude steps leading to the pond. There are a few Jew Ponds on Madayipara believed to have been used for livelihood. Chandrangadan remembers a time when these wells were deep. Now debris, tyres and bottles, form its depths. What is believed to be remnants of habitation, small stone mounds, are also found here.
Madayipara’s pride of place in history is underlined by the vestiges of an old fort at the farthest end of the hillock. What remains are three wells within the premises, used according to lore, to dump severed heads, now of course a bed of waste. The boundaries of the fort, said to be built by the Mooshaka dynasty, can still be tracked through crumbled stone fences. The Archaeological Survey of India recently rebuilt a small portion of the ruined fort.
Despite these snapshots of history, what draws crowds to Madayipara is Madayikavu, a Bhagavathi temple counted among the oldest in Kerala. Shakteya puja is performed here and Pooramkuli is the annual festival.
Madayipara is an incessant lure for ornithologists. Though mornings and evenings are when birds flutter in, we spotted a few quaint ones in the blazing sun. P.C. Rajeevan, an avid bird watcher, has spotted 140 different species of birds here. “Among the rarest birds found here are the buff-breasted sand piper and the collared pratincole,” says Rajeevan. The site boasts migratory birds, laterite resident birds including an array of larks and also a few over-wintering birds, says Rajeevan. The place is also home to an assortment of butterflies and a wide range of plants.