Banasura Sagar Dam, also known as Kuttiyadi Augmentation Main Earthen Dam, in Padinjarathara village at Wayanad built across Karamanathodu tributary of Kabini river was started in 1979. The project was completed in 2004. The dam acts as a reservoir for  Kakkayam Hydro electric power project apart from proving water resources to Wayanad during summer. The dam is the largest earthen dam in India and the second largest in Asia. Hirakud dam in Sambhalpur district of Odisha across Mahanadi river is the longest earthen dam in the world.

Earth-fill dams are the most common and economical type of dam as it is made of soil built up by compacting successive layers of earth, using the most impervious materials to form a core and placing more permeable substances on the upstream and downstream side. The problems that researchers predict is that these dams are vulnerable to internal erosion and piping due to seepage.

The Narippara area, which is nestled in the Banasuramala is highly vulnerable to landslides especially during the monsoon season between June and September.

Banasura is the name of the son of Mahabali, the King of Kerala who is said to have ruled the world and had brought enough prosperity and was sent to a world below the feet, netherworld or “Pathalam”. Onam is celebrated throughout Kerala in memory of this great King, who is belived to visit this world on the day of Onam. Malakkari is the principal deity of the Kurichya tribe who are found all across Wayanad, and means ‘one who resides in the hills’. The legends tells us the story of the most famous war between Lord Krishna and Banasura, who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. The grandson of Krishna, Anirudh is belived to have fallen in love with Usha, the beautiful daughter of Banasura. Banasura then arrested and threw Anirudh into the prison. Lord Krishna attacked Banasura with forces. Lord Shiva was forced to wage war with Lord Krishna. The battle went on for years. Lord Krishna cut off four of the thousand hands of Banasura. Banasura was defeated but Krishna didn’t kill him. Finally, Banasura agreed to release Anirudh and give him his daughter. A temple, Karabanasseri temple, is constructed in the spot where the hands of Bana, known as ‘karabana’ fell down. As a result of the use of a weapon by Sri Krishna, what could be called in today’s world as a biological weapon, Wayanad was caught in the grip of malaria for centuries

During the battle, Shiva sent two arrows in tandem through the sky. At that time, two boys were playing marbles near the Peechankod temple of Malakkari, near Mananthavady, Mannantoddy as the Bristishers named it, in the northern part of Wayanad. They saw the two arrows moving together through the sky, and threw marbles at them. Both the arrows were hit and veered from their planned route. One fell at a place near Mananthavady, which is known as Ambukuthi (the place where the arrow fell). The other arrow fell on a hill near Ambalavayal near Sultan Bathery in south Wayanad, a place now known as Ambukuthimala (the hill where the arrow fell). Later, Shiva demarcated the area between these arrows as the area of Malakkari’s jurisdiction.

Southern Granulite Terrain (SGT), are the high grade rocks that form the northern boundary of Peninsular India. They are known as Dharwar Craton. The hills are made up of synthetic granite with veins of basaltic rock, hornblende and quartz. The Banasura hill, in the western region of Wayanad, is one of the highest hills in the Western Ghats, with an elevation of about 2059 meters . The dam, located at the foot of Banasura Hills, provides irrigation and drinking water to the locality, particularly Pulpally, Mullankolly and Poothadi panchayats. The reservoir is capable of storing 209,250,000 cubic meters of water. The hydro electric power station can generate up to 231.75 MW of power.

The villages in Wayanad is famous for the arecanut, coffee, tea plantations and pepper. Vissecher’s “Letters from Malabar” calls Malabar as the “mother of pepper”. From the times of Zamorin, trade and sale or monopoly of pepper was an important attraction for the Portuguese and their followers.

The dam is one of must see places in Wayanad district, where approximately 12,500 foreign and around 1,15,000 domestic tourists arrived in 2019. Wayanad contributed around 2116 crores to the foreign exchange earnings in the year 2019. The statistics for 2020,2021 indicate a downward trend due to Covid 19 pandemic and restrictions in travel. It is predicted that 2022 will bring enough boom to the economy of Wayanad which relies heavily on its tourists.

A view of Banasura Hills on a cloudy evening

The western ghats comprises of the chain of mountains running parallel to India’s western coast, approximately 30-50 km inland, the Ghats traverse the States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. These mountains cover an area of around 140,000 km² in a 1,600 km long stretch that is interrupted only by the 30 km Palghat Gap at around 11°N. As per the statistics report by Kerala Tourism, January is the most preferred month to visit Wayanad.

Geographical Map of the region that encompasses Niligiri ecosphere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its mountain railways.

Pazhassi Raja of Wayanad

Tomb of Pazzhasi Raja
A sword during the times of Pazhassi Raja
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (1753 -1805) was valiant ruler who fought against the British domination in India. He and the tribals of the region mounted attacks from the hills of Wayanad during Pazhassi revolt of the 1890s. Pazhassi Raja is also known as Lion of Kerala or Kerala Simham.

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