A journey into the forgotten past. A brief travel through time to an era that once existed thousands of years ago. An era that was one of the oldest human civilizations – the stone age. And you can experience that era in the nature-made Edakkal Caves.
Located in the north east of Kerala in India, Edakkal Caves is situated at a peak of 1200 meters above sea level on the Ambukuthi Hills in Wayanad rain forest near an ancient trade. The rainforest itself was said to be inhabited starting around 3000 years ago and is still inhabited by tribals today.
Getting to the caves is no easy task but travelers are sure to find it thrilling. There is a 1km trek up to the caves with stone steps carved halfway to the top. These uneven steps made from nothing but stone and mountain are old as the forest. This pathway is a narrow steep of curved trails and jagged rocks. Thick dense forests cover both sides and the scent of coffee is evident in the atmosphere which is not surprising since the place is used as a coffee plantation.
The rigid and hoarse stone steps would make the 1km climb feel as if it were 6km in total. But once these stone steps are over, hikers will get another set of proper stairs with railings. At this point, the climb will be steeper than before as the peak comes closer.
Once at the summit, hikers will step into a small gap between towering rock-faces lined up on both sides – this is the beginning to the caves. The light streaming in is dim, the rocks are slippery and at some places visitors will have to crouch to pass through the narrow gaps.
Venturing further will make one think that the cave will get darker but instead, hikers are greeted with light and a cool gust of wind that will wash any fatigue as one stands at the opening of the Edakkal Caves.
The caves were formed by an earthquake, causing a major stone to fall on top of the other hence earning the name “Edakkal” meaning ‘a stone in between.’ This cave was found in the 1890s by Fred Fawcett, Superintendent of Police of Malabar District when he stumbled upon it during his hunting trip. He immediately recognized the cave’s carvings and its historical importance.
The petroglyphs in the caves show figures of animals, humans and perhaps objects that they had used in their everyday lives. According to archaeologists, these caves are dated back as far as 8000 years ago. The petroglyphs are known to be of three types, ranging over periods from the Neolithic as early as 6,000 BC to 1,000 BCE.
Raghava Varier, a historian of the Kerala State Archeology Department, identified a depiction of a man with a jar cup, which indicates that the petroglyphs could have a possible connection with the Indus Valley Civilization.
Iravatham Mahadevan, a scholar of the Indus valley, had said that the carvings were a “major discovery”.
Today, despite being a treasure trove for archeologists, the Edakkal Caves are threatened from illegal construction and mining. The state government seeks to protect the only Stone Age carvings in the whole of South India, and perhaps even South Asia, with a UNESCO tag.
For travelers this historically significant place is not just an adventurous destination but a window to what the past was and could have been.
WORDS: Ameena Navab.