Wayanad, Nenmeni, Kerala 673595, India
Over 7,000 year old cave with stone age carvings in the walls.
Location of Edakkal Caves
More about Edakkal Caves
Edakkal Caves are two natural caves located at Ambukuthy Mala (Ambukuthy Mountain) at Edakkal, 25KM from Kalpetta and 16KM from Sulthan Bathery in the Wayanad district of Kerala in Southern India. They lie in the Western Ghats Mountain ranges at 1,200 meters above the sea level in an ancient trade route connecting the Mysore to the ports of Malabar.
Even though the spot is well known as a natural cave, it is actually a rock shelter made by a large piece of rock splitting away from the main body. Another large rock covers it to form the roof of the cave. The name Edakkal Caves literally means ‘a stone in between’.
Discovery of the caves by Fred Fawcett
The caves were discovered by Fred Fawcett, a police officer of the old Malabar state in 1890 who recognised its anthropological and historical significance. He was on a hunting trip to Wayanad and happened to notice a stone axe from the Neolithic Age in a coffee estate. After this encounter with the stone axe, he decided to explore the rest of the Ambukuthy Mala, clearing away the thick foliages that hid the caves. In his quest, the rock shelter which is now called Edakkal caves was found.
Symbols and writings inside Edakkal Cave
Inside the caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BC from the Neolithic Age indicating the presence of prehistoric settlement in this region. These are the only known examples of stone carvings in the entire South India. The carvings include that of human and animal figures, tools used by humans and symbols that are yet to be deciphered suggesting that the caves were inhibited at several times at different points in time.
In recent researches and excavations, possible links to Indus Valley civilisation were also found through roughly 400 signs that were identified. One of these signs, a man with a jar is a distinct shape of Indus Valley civilisation and the presence of such symbol indicates that Harappan civilisation(2300BC to 1700BC) was active in Southern India as well.
Legends surrounding the cave
Keeping science and history aside, there are plenty of legends too associated with the caves. The belief is that Lord Rama, one of the earliest visitors of this area shot an arrow to Ambukuthy Mala which pierced the rock and split it into two. The name of the mountain, Ambukuthy Mala is also believed to be derived from this legend. In Malayalam Ambu means ‘arrow’ and Kuthy means ‘pierced’. Locals associate the place with deities, there are many idols near the caves.
Hiking up and exploring Edakkal Caves
To reach the caves, you have to hike 900 meters up though Ambukuthy Mala. The hike through the coffee plantations takes roughly about an hour. The lush greenery in all directions, the scenic landscapes and the breeze carrying the aroma of coffee with make the hike easy and interesting. The ticket office is on top of the mountain and the authorities will open up the iron gate for visitors after taking the proper tickets. And then you are enter the world of history, a world were people lived 7,000 years ago!
Inside the caves, the rock surface is full of symbols and shapes of crosses, triangles, tridents, squares, stars etc.. there are many human figures with raised hair, some have masked faces. Apart from the symbols, there are ancient languages also seen inscribed in the rocks. There are two chambers inside: The lower chamber is 5.5 meters long, 3.5 meters wide and 3 meters high, while the upper one is 20 meters long, 6.7 meters wide and 5.5 meters high. An iron railing placed in front of the rock carvings which prevents visitors from damaging them. The damp interior with history and misty air is sure to enthral any visitor. There is a telescope installed a few feet away from the caves as well which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the mountain ranges.
How to reach Edakkal Caves?
To reach the caves, you have the options of driving yourself or taking the bus. If you are taking a bus, board on the bus towards Ambalavayal from Sulthan Bathery and ask to drop you off at the caves. From the bottom of the hill you will have to start climbing to reach the ticket counter on top. There are jeeps provided by the tourism department up till midway of the hill if you do not want to climb all the way up. The nearest major railway station is at Kozhikode and there are buses from Kozhikode to Sulthan Bathery.