Have you ever been to any cave before? As you enter through the dark uneven passage, enclosed by rocks, it takes you to a different world. One such cave is located in Kerala’s Wayanad district, which takes visitors back to the Stone Age. Yes, it is Edakkal Caves, which is among the oldest human settlements ever discovered. These two natural caves, lying 1,200 m above sea level, on Ambukuthi Mala, is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in India. Moreover, its location was used as an ancient trade route that once connected the high mountains of Mysore and the ports of Malabar Coast.
For those, looking to explore the best of nature should consider visiting Edakkal Caves in Wayanad. Despite not being considered caves in a scientific sense, Edakkal Caves are identified as a Neolithic settlement and present the evidence of a pre-historic, highly civilized society.
A Bit of History
The caves are a part of prehistoric rock shelter, which were formed naturally, when one massive boulder got wedged between two bigger boulders. And that’s how it got its name Edekkal, which means ‘a stone in between’.
However, the caves were shielded by the dense jungle due to which they were deserted for a millennium. It was only in 1890, when Fred Fawcett, a police officer of erstwhile Malabar state, discovered these Neolithic-era caves.
Inside the cave, you will find various intricate carvings or petroglyphs. The oldest one dates back over 8,000 years. A few drawings on the walls of the stone range between 6,000 BC to 1,000 BCE. Archeologists have found several pieces of evidence that suggest that Edakkal was inhabited several times in different points of history.
The Link With The Indus Valley Civilization
If you are wondering how these two are connected to each other, when one flourished in North India and the other one was just a rock shelter, used by the inhabitants of a small town in South India. Well, this theory might prove that Indus Valley Civilization didn’t just vanish in thin air suddenly.
The youngest group of paintings founded in Edakkal Caves had possible links with the Indus Valley civilization. Historian Raghava Varier identified a depiction of ‘man with a jar cup’, which was the most common motif of Indus Valley civilization.
One of the most popular legends associated with it is that the caves were created with the arrows fired by Lava and Kusha, the twin sons of Lord Rama and Devi Sita. Another myth says, it was formed because of the Goddess Mudiampilly and Kuttichathan. No matter who and how the caves were formed, today it stands tall as evidence of India’s prehistoric human settlements in this region.
Petroglyphs & Carvings
The intricate pictographs inside the caves are what draw large domestic and international tourists to Edakkal Caves Nenmeni Kerala. These remarkable carvings on the walls of the caves are known for its sheer scale and complexity. However, its actual date of origin is still shrouded in mystery. The engravings include human figures, animals, tools, vehicles, day-to-day activities, and multifarious scripts in different languages.
No doubt, the main reason behind the huge popularity of the caves is the intricate pictorial paintings that show the regular human life of the Neolithic period. The carvings and line drawings found here are a testament to the life and culture of those who lived here. One can easily see weird-shaped figures, crosses, circles, stars, wheels, squares, trident, triangles, pot-shaped objects, plant motifs on the rock surface. The human figures found here have either raised hair or a mask covering their faces. Some other significant paintings include a tribal king, a queen, a child, a deer, and an elephant.
As you descend down this nearly 8,000 year old tunnel, you will find two chambers. The upper chamber has a length of 97 feet, width of 26 feet, and 18 feet, and the lower chamber has a length of 18, 12, and 10 feet. The sculptures and carvings found in the caves are of Neolithic and Mesolithic period and are a great evidence of a highly civilized society of the period.
Wayanad is well-connected by road. A wide network of roads connect Wayanad with other cities of Kerala and Karnataka. Edakkal Caves is located 12 km from Wayanad’s Sulthan Bathery, which is the nearest KSRTC bus station. Ambalavayal is the nearest town from where you can easily rent a jeep to the foothills of Ambukuthi Mala. From there you will have to hike a physically challenging trek.
The 45 minute trek might be challenging physically, but as you pass through the Ambukuthi Hill, you will be greeted by the soothing landscape of green vegetation. What makes the trek more difficult is, you have to climb more than 300 steps to reach the caves. But don’t let it discourage your inner spirit. Admire the coffee plantation along the way and enjoy the fragrance of fresh coffee as you walk through the hilly terrain towards the cave.
At the base, you have to pay an entry fee which varies depending on your citizenship. For Indians, the entry fee is just INR 20 and INR 40 for foreigners. INR 25 for a still camera and INR 100 for video camera. Plastic bags, food, and water bottles are not allowed. However, if you want to bring your water bottle, then you need to pay a deposit fee.
Edakkal Caves remains open from 9 am to 4 pm on Tuesday to Sunday. The cave remains closed for visitors on all Mondays and local and national holidays. Hence, visit the cave’s official website to know its timing and avoid planning a trip here on Mondays.
The history of Edakkal Caves dates back to more than 8000 years. It is superbly set in an enclosed forest area and the natural light emitting from above gives it a dramatic setting. Its intricate carvings, paintings, and other evidence on the rock surface prove its link to Indus Valley civilization. These are enough reasons to inspire tourists with a knack of history to come to this incredible rock shelter.