Are you a traveller? If so, did you know that various types of tourism exist such as – cultural, historical, adventure, wildlife, medical, educational, food etc? The purpose for which you travel defines the category of tourism. So if you are a person who loves exploring places that are associated with death, horror, tragedy or suffering, then your chosen category is Dark Tourism also known as Black Tourism or Grief Tourism.
This term might seem a bit morbid and you may think you do not prefer this form of tourism. But some of the world-famous places would fall under this category such as Ground Zero in New York, Hiroshima in Japan, Chornobyl in Ukraine etc. In India, Dark Tourism linked places would include the Taj Mahal in Agra, Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and the Cellular Jail in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. All these places are well known because of their sad or grief-stricken history.
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Even though Dark Tourism may not be a happy experience, it is highly popular because of two reasons:
- To learn about the associated history
- To experience something different
So let us take a look at some of the spots that could fit into the Dark Tourism category in Kerala:
This is a big well situated in Thirunavaya which has a sad connection with the historical festival of Mamangam which was last held in the year 1755. Mamangam was organised by the Samoothiri, the King of Calicut, and was celebrated once in 12 years for 28 days on the banks of Bharathappuzha.
During this festival, kings of the neighbourhood regions would send a flag to share their solidarity with the Samoothiri. But the King of Valluvanad sent a Chaver (Suicide squad) to assassinate Samoothiri. The Chavers who were killed or badly injured by the Samoothiri’s soldiers were thrown into the Manikkinar (the well) and later elephants were used to trample down the bodies. This well is currently a protected monument by the Kerala State Archaeology Department and still invites scores of visitors due to the grief history associated with it. This place definitely falls under Dark Tourism.
Chain Tree, Wayanad
Tourists from all over the world flock towards Wayanad to enjoy the cool climate and the natural beauty but how many of you know about the spooky chain tree in Lakkidi?
Wayanad was an unexplored area during British rule and only a few tribals knew the route through the hills and forest. The myth is that a tribal person called Karinthandan helped a British engineer find the shortest route to Wayanad. Post which, the engineer killed Karinthandan to take the whole credit for finding the route.
It is said that ever since his death, Karinthandan’s ghost started to trouble the passengers who travel via that route. A priest, then, exorcised the spirit and tied it around a tree with a chain. This chain tree is now a famous tourist spot and can be found along the national highway near the Thamarassery Ghat Pass on the way to Wayanad.
Also, do you know that as years passed, the chain also seems to have grown taller along with the tree? Is this place in Kerala too scary for you to explore?
Punnapra Vayalar Memorial, Alappuzha
In 1946, the labourers of the village Punnapra started an uprising against the local government for their suppressive nature of ruling. Post the second world war, the peasants suffered from food shortages and diseases but the landlords who were aided by the police continued to exploit them. This led to the clash and claimed the life of a policeman. The situation further worsened when the government ordered the army against the people, which raised the death toll to more than 300. This historic event named the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising and is said to be the only working class-led armed revolt against a government that was backed by the British. A large Martyr’s column is set up as a memorial to remember this event.
Perumon Train Tragedy Memorial, Kollam
One of the worst rail tragedies witnessed in Kerala was the Perumon train accident of 1988. The Island Express which was travelling from Bangalore to Trivandrum got derailed at the Perumon Bridge and fell into the Ashtamudi Lake, killing more than 100 people. A tornado which hit the region during this time is said to be the reason for this accident. Currently, there is a small memorial constructed next to the bridge. Every year, the relatives of the victims go there to pay homage. Perumon Bridge and the Ashtamudi Lake have become well known owing to this incident in Kerala.
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Maradu Flat Demolition Site, Kochi
Before Noida’s Supertech Twin Towers were demolished, in 2020, four luxury waterfront apartments were demolished near Vembanad lake, Maradu. The Supreme Court had ordered its demolition since these apartments violated environmental norms and were built close to the lake. This demolition was a fascinating sight forMalayalis. While most of us stayed glued to the television screens for the live telecast, hundreds even made their way to the spot to witness this in real time. While it was a unique incident, what we forget to realise is that close to 300 families lost their homes that day. This is indeed a place of sadness and could be marked as a dark tourism site.
The popularity of Dark Tourism has forever increased. But then, there’s the ethical aspect of it. Like is it actually right to photograph or take a selfie in a place associated with sorrow? While you ponder over this, do check out Aokigahara – a fascinating dark tourism spot in Japan.