Four Enchanting Coffee-Table Books on Kerala Wildlife

Kerala Tourism has come up with a four-volume coffee-table book on the state’s rich biodiversity up along its rugged hills on the eastern side. The pictures are enchanting, the literature is inspiring.

A bicoloured frog faces the Travancore turtle on the opposite page. Two Nilgiri tahrs mate on the grassy hilltop otherwise hued by a blue sky. Perched on a thorny branch of one tree, the golden oriole shows off the yellow fluff of its feathers. The leopard, peacock and myna enrich the sylvan surrounds by coming into core focus.

As if happily seeking to blur a general notion that Kerala is all about blue backwaters dotted with country boats and sandy beaches lined by coconut trees, the state’s government has come up with a clutch of coffee-table books that throw light on a historical trade path and four wildlife destinations dense with rugged greenery of immense visual splendour.

A click from Periyar Tiger Reserve
A click from Periyar Tiger Reserve

The five books, explaining in detail about God’s Own Country’s famed Spice Route, besides the national parks of Silent Valley and Eravikulam as well as the tiger reserves at Periyar and Parambikulam, are out as printed works brought out by Kerala Tourism.

The wildlife books, under the series ‘Sanctuary for the Soul’ (priced at Rs 1,750 each) are available through outlets of the state’s department of forest (which has supported the project) and tourism besides at the information center of the latter. What’s more, online readers across the world will be able to get a close look at them, as Kerala Tourism is taking them to Kindle — the leading internet site which is a favourite with e-readers to choose from over a million books.

The Silent Valley National Park
The Silent Valley National Park

“It is for the first time that a state tourism board in the country has launched this kind of an endeavour, where an online facility of its books are being availed of to readers,” a top official said about the world-wide access to the five richly illustrated and informed books on Kerala’s major tourism destinations.

All the books — of 130 to 150 pages each — are products of months of research and contain pictures taken by top professionals in nature and wildlife photography. The four-volume publication of Kerala’s wildlife has images shot by lensman Balan Madhavan, while the writer is Manu Remakant known for his fondness for forests.

A tiger capture from Parambikulam Tiger Reserve
A tiger capture from Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

“The effort is to use technology to provide information about Kerala and destinations,” a state tourism department official informed. “We have now taken a step further to appeal to the intellect and aesthetics of the discerning global traveller.”

Kerala and the Spice Routes, which retraces milestones in human civilisation spanning continents, is a rewind to the past and a peek into the layers of the people’s sense of adventure and thirst for new experiences. The book narrates the rich multiculturalism of Kerala more than two millennia ago by taking the readers through the Malabar Coast that was the starting point for Kerala’s spice trade with the rest of the world.

A herd of elephants from Periyar Tiger Reserve
A herd of elephants from Periyar Tiger Reserve

With the help of arresting photographs, Kerala and the Spice Routes talks about the history of races that touched Kerala’s shores, the landing of traders and the synergies that worked to create a rich social fabric.

The other books (editor: Bhawani Cheerath) from Kerala Tourism’s new Sanctuary for the Soul series — Silent Valley National Park, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Eravikulam National Park and Parambikulam Tiger Reserve — are a treatise on the people’s links with nature, portrayed with conservation and the need to protect forests in mind.

These books lead the reader through the rhythms of the wild, alerting each to the wonders of nature and the harmony of the jungle, offering a rare opportunity to experience the tropical green coming alive.

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve at its picturesque best
Parambikulam Tiger Reserve at its picturesque best

Kerala’s national parks and reserves are an open invite to the nature lover and the tourist alike. The books are an enticing read. They contain scintillating photographs and fascinating descriptions.

“The books are not only a demonstration of the state’s rich natural diversity, but also an attempt to create willing participants in forest and wildlife conservation and protection,” an official said.

Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam National Park

Kerala Tourism is also the first tourism board in the country to webcast a classical dance. That was three years ago when it beamed live a performance of North Malabar’s traditional Theyyam rituals for the global audience.

The Kerala Tourism’s national and international award-winning website (www.keralatourism.org) is one of the leading tourism and travel websites in the world visited by millions of people. Kerala Tourism Facebook page, in English and German, is not only a medium for information about the state, but also a much-loved interaction site among the fans of ‘God’s Own Country’.

Excerpts:

From Periyar Tiger Reserve

Periyar-Cover

Intense battle ensued. The bear wanted to vent his ire on Kuttan for getting close to its cubs and all Kuttan wanted was to extricate himself for a moment so that he could rise and start running.

But, it was literally a bear hug.

Help did arrive, an hour later. Kuttan was lying at the foot of that hill in a pool of blood. “The bear was so furious that it returned, twice, to maul me.” He had hardly a face, or a scalp, though his eyes, behind battered fingers, were fine.

Kuttan survived the crisis once again, and after many surgeries, got a face back. Well, almost.

“But, why did you come back! You could have got a job outside the woods,” I wonder aloud.

“I could have. Had I left, it would have sent a wrong message to the youth in my tribal settlement. I want them to come after me and take up this job, to guard our forest. They will be afraid if I don’t show the courage.”

From Eravikulam National Park

Eravikulam-Cover

Animals like elephants, gaurs,sambars, tigers, leopards and Nilgiri tahrs make the montaine grass and shoals in Eravikulam National Park rich in biodiversity. But to catch them grazing, along the undulating grasslands or the thickly-wooded shoals where folds of mist ballet with wild abandon throughout the year, is an experience worth celebrating. The presence of Nilgiri marten, the only species of this kind found in South India, attracts wildlife enthusiasts to the National park. The almost mythical ‘Pohayanpuli’, which many claim to have spotted, is another element that adds to the jungle’s drama.

Finally the curtain lifts. No sambar or tahr on the hillside where we saw a figure a few seconds ago. But instead, a stunning spectacle on the crest of the mountain near it. There! In the failing light, we pick the sharp outlines of a pachyderm emerging from the shoal. Not one, but three! They move in a single file. Along the razor-thin crest of the mountain, they walk gently. The one in the lead now raises its trunk into the sky. As they walk, they turn slowly away, and set behind the mountain, but not before raising their trunks once again to the sky. They walk into a night waiting to embrace them.

Darkness.

From Silent Valley National Park

SV-Cover

We follow the river along the bank all day, listening to her prattle, capturing her moods in various lights and soils. How violently she crashes down over meek rocks, wily river…she also knows when to tone herself down, carry her liquid ego light, squeeze it through chinks and cracks and yet whittle stubborn boulders fleck by fleck. Most of her way, Kunthi sprints shallow, revealing her sunny reveries and milky pebbles underneath, but once she reaches Sairandhri, the place where she has only bitter memories of a dam that was almost built a few decades ago to bridle her carefree course, the river turns suddenly deep, dark and pensive.

Perhaps, a river scorned runs deep!

Today, we wail over the famished river, Bharathappuzha, that once nourished the vast plains of North Kerala. The Kjnthi now offers the breather: the only feeder river of Bharathappuzha that flows unimpeded by a dam throughout the year.

From Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

Parambikulam-Cover

It is a wonder that Parambikulam, which has seen all that human tinkering from teaks to tramways, has persisted and is presently one of the least disturbed Protected Areas in India and also a hotspot of biodiversity.

The forest has an uncanny verve in reclaiming lost regions and burying the gashes men inflict. Can any camera capture the thrill that warms the cockles of the heart when one hears that deep-throated growl from the thicket?

Ah, for me! How can I translate the heaven I saw into words!

(The writer is a freelance journalist and media consultant based in Delhi.)

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