Pookode: A Cool Lake at the Gateway of Wayanad

Pookode lake:Blue waters, chilling evergreen forests and misty mountains of Wayanad

Up the ghat pass of Wayanad at the very gateway of this ancient elevated paddy land or Wayal Nadu at around 700m lies this tropical blue lake skirted by vernal wet green forests and grass land tops.  The Pookode lake is a natural freshwater spring lake having  great ecological, geographical and cultural antiquity.

Going up the 9 hairpin bends of Wayanad ghat pass

This refreshing waterbody is so close to the highway (Calicut-Kalpeta) and travelers are wooed to its chilling charms.  Temperatures are much lower around the lake and it is a great getaway from the heat of Calicut.  I was drawn to this ancient beauty while attending the National Theatre Festival of Kerala 2011 at Kozhikode.

Forests and mountains encircling Pookode lake

Plenty of KSRTC buses are available from Calicut to this place.  It takes under two hours to reach the lake from the city.  The blue lake also has mesmerizing lilac waterlilies in its bosom.  Reeds, bamboos, flowering riperian shrubs and trees lull the lake from all sides.  The walk around the lake along the winding path is amazing and spectacular. It opens up a new view of lake at every curve and turning.

Canopied with bowers: The green walkway around Pookode lake

Plenty of tourists from other states are also here to enjoy the chill and charms of this forest fairy.  boating and canoeing provisions are available.  Plenty of monkeys are also here.  There are also a few fish ponds near the lake.  It is a plastic-free zone and rural handicrafts are available in eco-shops with mud walls and bamboo thatches.

Grey Pansy butterfly near Pookode lake

The ancient Banyan and a small shrine of Pookode Amma the mother goddess of Pookode prove that this was an ancient sacred lake and shrine like Devikulam near Munnar located well above 1600m in Iduki district towards the south.  It is interesting to note that this sacred lake is so close to the Jain ruins of Sulthan Bathery and Mananthavady in Wayanadu.  Wayanadu itself is known for its Jain antiquity that still shelters Jain people in its natural bounty though reduced to a few in hegemonic invasions in history.

Rich reeds and bamboos skirting Pookode lake

Wayanadu with its geographical proximity with the Deccan plateau and Kodagu, Hassan and South Kannada districts of Karnataka was a cradle of Jainism from BC era itself.  Its closeness to Sravanabelgola is remarkable. Pookode Amma could be Pathmavady Devi or Khusmandini Devi or any other sacred fairies of Jainism with a local tint.

Cozy and cool cruise in Pookode lake

Now she is worshiped locally in the Hinduized form of Wana Durga or Bhagavathy.  I remember V V K Valath the renowned scholar and researcher in Kerala culture and history who opened up the mystery of Wana Durgas in Kerala by researching and disseminating the knowledge on their Sramana past.  He is the major organic intellectual in Kerala to expose the spatial and renaming strategies of Brahmanism with which it changed the whole cultural terrain in south India in a few centuries.

People enjoying the riperian beauty and soothing breeze of Pookode lake

Unfortunately he could not complete his mega project of writing about place names and local histories in Kerala.  Anyway Malayalees are gifted with his few volumes on a couple of disctricts like Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Palakkad, Ernakulam etc. published by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.

Banyan and shrine of Pookode Amma the mother goddess of Pookode on the south bank of the lake

Anyway today the azure blue waters of this virgin spring is still medicinal and contains healing powers for the local people and the tribals of Wayanadu who were its original owners.  This is one of the coolest summer locations in Kerala where you can beat the heat and rising temperatures in the planes and relax in the lap of mother nature for a while and regain your human qualities and creativity which you can utilize for the conservation of nature and culture in an inclusive and democratic way.

Lilac waterlilies in Pookode lake

Revisiting Beypore Sultan

Beypore: Mouth of river Chaliyar and new fishing harbor

Beypore or Bepur is one of the ancient port cities of Kerala only after Kodungallur or Muziris.  Even today it is the second port of Kerala after Kochi which came to prominence in the 15 century after the flood in river Periyar that ruined the fame of Vanchi or Muziris.  In terms of people and cargo handled this  jewel of Malabar is competing with Kochi and Mangalore in the west coast.

Beypore port gate: a canon towards right bottom

It is a unique estuarine port on the northern banks of river Chaliyar that takes the waters from Nilambur forests and empties into Arabian see between Beypore and Chaliyam.  This historic site that has attracted Romans, Chinese, Arabs and Sumerians for thousands of years having a continuous maritime history of atleast 1500 years is just 10km south west of the city of Calicut or Kozhikode.  It was also famous for Uru or Dhow or small trading vessels built with Nilambur Teak and coir.

Projecting into sea: New walkway on break-water in Beypore

But today the shipbuilding cottage industry is no more.  the space formerly occupied by the native marine architects and ship builders and master carpenters has literally vanished and a new fishing harbor has come up near the breakwater in the Beypore beach.  I remember visiting the place in 1996 while working briefly at a Muslim primary school in Iringallur near Kottakal, Malapuram.  The whole landscape had changed and today there are only miniature vessels for sale here.

A Tern in flight one km out-shore by the walkway at Beypore

In ancient times it was called Vaypur or Vadaparappanad with Parapan Angady and Kadalundi Nagaram (a port annex) to the south.  In the 18th century Tipu after capturing Malabar renamed it as Sulthan Pattanam.  In the second half of 20th century another brave warrior this time a warrior with a pen rather than a sword in hand popularized the place all over Kerala through letters as his second home.  He was hailing from Vaikom in Kottayam and later rooted himself in Malabar at Beypore and became well known as Beypore Sulthan.

Basheer’s worldly paradise: Beypore Sulthan’s home near Beypore town, Calicut

He is none other than Vaikom Muhamad Basheer the author of scores of best selling classics in Malayalam fiction.  It was my dream to meet the great Sufi at his second home in Beypore.  In my 1996 visit I could not make it.  But on April 2, 2011 I visited Beypore Sulthan’s home and met his life partner Fabi Basheer.  Though his physical presence is lacking the man of letters for all times is there in every waving green leaf and smiling little flower.

Basheer’s sufi-garden: Dearest Pavizhamally on the left which he nurtured with his own hands

We had a refreshing talk about Basheer and his life.  She showed me all the flowering plants and trees that were nurtured by Basheer with his own hands.  The rare trees are still there and are green and richly flowering.  The lonely Mangostin tree seems to be gloomy with dark but lush foliage in loosing its soul companion who used to sit beneath it in his old easy chair while playing his gramaphone and singing aloud occasionally.

Fabi Basheer before their home in Beypore

All the big ink pens, writing pads, easy chair, record player, writing table and portraits of Basheer are preserved hear for posterity by his son Anis Basheer.  The house is renovated without loosing the old ambiance and without harming the trees.  It is cool and green in the richly shaded plot.  I felt like entering a wet sacred grove as I was coming from Kozhikode city from the heat of National Theatre Festival 2011.

Basheer’s Sufi-sacred grove: Asoka, Champaka, Cinnamon and much more nameless plants…

The Basheer family must be appreciated for preserving the memories of the legendary writer and maintaining the house and green surroundings  for visitors and researchers all the time.  The flowering hibiscuses and other herbs planted by Basheer still welcome children and adults with a keen eye and sense  for the little wonders and delights of the world.

Basheer’s Mangostin: The living tree that lost its soul-mate but still giving shade and chill to others
Flowering shrubs and perennials and Fabi Basheer reading newspaper in the backdrop
Resonant shade: Loneliness of the Mangostin tree
Visible presence: Fabi beneath the portrait of Basheer at Beypore home