What drew me to these caves in the Wayanad district, Kerala was that it was a pre-historic site with mysterious engravings. I had read that the carvings resembled the rock impressions of Styrian Alps and that they were from the Neolithic period. So I wanted to check the site out even if it meant trudging uphill for an hour or so with my eight year old son.
Wayand is typically a five hour drive from Bangalore and I reached the trek spot around 8:30 in the morning. I wanted to trek early to avoid the hot sun. At the entrance I had to pay a deposit of 20 Rupees. The guard gave me a sticker for the plastic water bottle I was carrying. I loved this concept. If I returned back with the plastic I would get my money back.
I trekked the steep hill with my son's hand in mine. There are stone steps, steel railings in route for easy ascent. Still it is a good one hour's climb to the caves. I soon sight the first cave, rather a cleft caused by a fissure in the rock. That is why the cave is aptly named 'Edakkal' that means 'a stone in between'.
The cave formed is at two levels. The lower cave measures 18 feet by 12 feet with a height of 10 feet. It then leads to the upper chamber with a height of 18 feet. Sunlight pours in from a small gap at the right hand corner of the cave and I am able to glimpse my surroundings. And that is when I make out the strange symbols on my right.
I can see animal figures, magic boxes, the symbol of swastika, wheels etc. I can also make out figures of women and men in head dresses. Yet even with all these images the identity of the cave is a mystery. Was this a place of devil dancing? The masked figures, dancers indicate that it might be the case. Such forms of dancing are common in these parts. Yet there are also sun symbols on the walls. Could it be a sun worship site then? The magic squares however leads me to think of fortune telling.
The caves certainly gives you goose bumps as it poses more questions than answers. Who were the people who inhabited the cave? Why did they take so much effort to live here, so high up from the ground?
Having spent 20 minutes in the interiors of the cave I am glad to head back. The downhill climb is easy, the descent takes a mere 30 minutes. I collect my deposit and head back home.
I later find out that the carvings are from the period between 4000 BC and 1000 BC and some of the symbols found here link back to Indus Valley. Yet these caves came to light only in the 1890's when a police superintendent named Fred-Fawcett discovered them during his hunting spree.
For now, the secretive caves and the strange signs and symbols keep calling me out for a second visit. Who knows I might just make a repeat visit and solve the mystery of the various carvings?
For the first timers here are few tips:
- The caves are closed on Mondays.
- Weekends see a heavy rush. So try to visit the caves on a weekday if possible.
- Aged people may find it difficult to trek the steep hill. So it is best to avoid this place.
- The parking lot at Edakkal is a haven for shoppers as it displays quite a number of interesting products made out of coconut shells and bamboo. There are some heavenly Ayurvedic oils and herbs too.
Written by: Usha Hariprasad
Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer. She is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writes about travel related destinations around Bangalore. She worked in the IT field for 7 years before deciding to follow her passion for writing. When she is not writing she conducts heritage walks in Bangalore. Follow her at:
Header Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Body Photos: Usha Hariprasad