I’m pretty sure there aren’t any Malayalis who haven’t heard of Thamarassery Churam. Many
people, upon hearing it would directly relate it to Kuthiravattom Pappu‘s popular dialogue
from the movie, Vellanakalude Nadu, characterised by its steep slope. If you are among
those who are spellbound by the journey along the nine hairpin bends in the 12 km stretch of
road, you are indebted to an individual, or a martyr – Karinthandan, a man who traversed his journey from a brave tribal chief to a soul that became the people’s nightmare, and presently,
he is a deity who is being worshipped by a number of people.
What lies in this path are mysterious stories of deceit and treachery. During British rule,
transporting spices to Mysore from Kerala was a challenge and frightening to the British, as
the only way for it was a journey through the forest inhabited by wild animals. As they were
desperately looking for a means of transport, they found no solution. But a few local
henchmen of the place, who allied with the British, came up with a solution –
Karinthandan, a man with a strong physique, was the chief of the Paniya tribe who inhabited
the foothills of the ghats. Upon hearing about him, the Britishers decided to pave the path
with his guidance. They were amazed by the way in which Karinthandan traversed the
forest that they were scared to enter. Earlier, a reward was announced by the Viceroy, to whoever finds the way through the forest. Upon completion of the work, the British engineer wanted to claim the reward and fame to his name. To achieve this, he planned to get Karinthandan killed. Karinthandan was cunningly led to the top of the hill in the dark and was shot dead by the British.
But the story of Karinthandan did not end here. During the 1800s, Thamarassery
Churam had become a spot that witnessed a lot of accidents and troubles. Whoever
traversed the path were said to have landed in trouble. Eventually, people were scared to
travel through the Churam, even during the daytime. It is said that the soul of Karinthandan
was present in the path and he was troubling passersby by causing all these
mishaps. Legend has it that a priest was called for, and he had captured the soul of
Karinthandan and chained it to a banyan tree at the start of Lakkidi, in Wayanad, which has
now become a temple, and is known today in different names such as ‘Changala Maram’
and Karinthandan Temple.
The tree today has a place in the bucket list of all tourists who come to Wayanad. There also exists a legend that claims that the chains on the tree keep on growing in size. Also, people who have visited the place say that one can hear Karinthandan’s laugh as they traverse the pass, and you feel that the brave tribal chief is watching you secretly.