Ambukuthy mala or Edakal Mala is one of the principal hills of Wynad that lies beside the ancient trade route connecting ports of Kerala and high mountains of Mysore. The route was constantly used during different periods of history.The Edakal caves on the Ambukuthy hills, near Ambalavayal, are famous for their Neolithic rock engravings on the cave walls.Its on the western slope of Ambukuthy mala’. The term Edakkal means a stone in between and litetrally it narrates the way how the cave was formed.The cave is formed by a corner of a rock splitting off from the main body due to some unknown natural causes .It was created by an enormous boulder straddling a massive fissure in a gigantic rock, creating a covered space that we call the caves..The cave walls are decorated with prehistoric carvings that have drawn the attention of the archeologists around the world. The cool interiors of the primitive cave s are replete with marvellous etchings that shatters the passage of time.It is a prehistoric rock shelter formed naturally out of a strange combination of three gigantic boulders making one to rest on the other. Its bottom jutting out in between and acting as roof.The alignment of boulders brings into existence a two storied natural cleft.
Edakal caves were identified as the habitat of Neolithic people.
It was Fred Fawcet , former police superintendent during the British period who spotted the cave and brought the cave to world’s attention.The rock engravings were noted only after Fawcet wrote about them and they were published in the journal Indian antiquary that published research oriented articles.The caves and 50 cents of land was taken over by the department and declared as a Protected monument on 4/7/1985.they are now under Wynad Tourism Promotion Council.
We enter into the lower storey or the ground floor of the cave through an opening with the measurement of 5 feet and 4 feet. The cave interior has the dimensions of 18 ft length,12 ft width and a height of 10 mts. It bears a trickle at the corner opposite to the entrance. A passage upward from the ground floor leads us to a a small opening through which we get into the upper floor.The upper storey entrance is with a dimension of 7 ft height and five feet width. The interior is about 96 ft long 22 ft wide and 18 feet high.
The walls on both sides of the Edakal rock shelter are embroidered up to a height of over four meters, and down below the present floor level of the cave with deeply carved motifs and signs which look particularly dramatic in the cool, mellow sheen of the damp interior.
The rock surface is full of linear motifs most of which form a vertically carved forest of deep incisions so congested that they are uncountable, a baffling magic of lines in the midst of which many weird-shaped figures seem to be emerging and disappearing, their forms melding and changing in different lights. We can identify crosses, triangles and tridents; squares, some with inner crosses, and a rectangle divided into nine square-shaped chambers; stars, wheels and spirals, whorls and volutes; plant motifs, pot-shaped items; various animals including ones resembling foxes, dogs and dear; and the unmistakable outline of an elephant.
There are many human figures. A good number of the men have raised hair, of these the most elegant is the figure of a man whose left hand is unnaturally long and reaching his feet. He holds an angular object in his right hand and seems to be wearing a tight garment that reveals an hour-glass torso. Another man has a square-shaped head and spiral belly. Some of the figures are wearing masks and heavy garments. The figure of a woman is easily recognizable, her head is simplified into a cross, and another cross is marked on her hips, there is another, nicely drawn figure of a woman shown standing on a platform. The most eye-catching and somewhat formidable human figure is a life-size male shown standing in frontal pose with raised arms and hair. His face, probably masked, is at a height of the eye-level of the viewer, thus it seems as if he is hindering the entry of outsiders. We know from photographs taken just 100 years ago that the present floor of the cave is some 40 centimetres higher it used to be, thus the man below his knees is today buried in the soil, and his face which is now at eye-level, once looked down on the viewer. These are just some examples of the many forms and figures that decorate the Edakkal cave. As far as we can tell, they were probably created during the Neolithic period.
Evidence indicates that the Edakkal caves had been inhabited at various times in history.Noted historian M R Raghava Varrier said that the recent findings at the Edakkal caves in Wayanad district were related to the Indus Valley civilization. It was for the first time that a symbol peculiar to the Indus Valley objects has been unearthed by archeologists in Kerala.
The Edakkal cave paintings were noted for their style and subject. The rock engravings are believed to be those in the period between 4000 BC and 1000 BC.
A rock engraving, indicating clear remnants of Harappan culture, has been found in the Edakkal caves in neighbouring Wayanad district, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with South India.
“There had been indications of remnants akin to the Indus Valley civilisation in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but these new findings give credence to the fact that the Harappan civilisation had its presence in the region too and could trace the history of Kerala even beyond the Iron Age,” historian M R Raghava Varier said.
The unique symbols integral to the Indus Valley culture traced in Harappa and Mohanjedaro region that stretched upto Pakistan, were found inside the caves during recent excavations by the State Archaeological Department.
Of the identified 429 signs, “a man with jar cup”, a symbol unique to the Indus civilisation and other compound letters testified to remnants of the Harappan culture, spanning from 2300 BC to 1700 BC, in South India, Mr. Varier, who led the excavation at the caves told PTI.
The “man-with-the-jar” symbol, an integral remnant commonly traced in parts where the Indus Valley civilisation existed, has even more similarities than those traced in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, he said.
The ‘man-with-the-jar’ has been a distinct motif of the Indus valley symbols. The Edakkal engraving has retained its unique style as the engraver tried to attain a two-dimensional human figure, Mr. Varier said.
This could be attributed to the transformation from the distinct symbols of the Indus Valley civilisation that could have taken place in due course of time, he said.
The ‘jar’ is more or less same as those in Indus ligature. But the human figure is a little different.
“These symbols form part of compound letters similar to scripts and no concerted efforts appear to have been made in the past to decipher them, with a lone exception by Iravatham Mahadevan (a scholar on the Indus valley civilisation), who could gather valuable ideas from such letters,” he said.
“The discovery of the symbols are akin to that of the Harappan civilisation having predominantly Dravidian culture and testimony to the fact that cultural diffusion could take place. It is wrong to presume that the Indus culture disappeared into thin air,” Mr. Varier said.
The symbols and pictographs found in the Edakkal cave were subjected to study for the first time in 1901 by Fawsette, a police official of the then Malabar district.
Later, Mr. Varier, along with noted history scholar Rajan Gurukkal carried out further studies,
which testified that the caves had remnants upto the Iron Age.The conservation works should be implemented .The conservation works include removal of moss from the petroglyphs and rectification of the damage caused by visitors before the caves were taken over by the department.The railings were reconstructed and old constructions such as the ticket counter, the gate and so on at the entrance to the caves.Setting up of two-way entrances to check the rush of tourists and a ban on the trekking to the top of the Ambukuthy hills to control soil erosion so as to prevent sediments from depositing inside the cave are also can be suggested.
Attempts were also on to get UNESCO’s world heritage status for the caves,. Unesco will consider this demand only if it is under the care of the Archaeology Department.Archeology Department in association with the Tourism Department after discussions with experts new findings could take the history of Edakkal and Kerala even beyond and throw more light into the culture of the region, Mr. Varier added.