Heavenly hills, rivers rippling down, lush green forests – add a friendly affectionate people and that will bring you to Malampuzha. The bamboo trees, the green fields and the palm trees sway to the gentle breeze that floats down the Valayar pass. This man-made dam, gardens and statues that were made without disturbing this serene beauty, add splendour to Malampuzha.
Malampuzha holds an unique place in the heart of a Malayali. Just like you associate fragrance of the Pala flowers (Alstonia Scholaris) with the yakshi (a female spirit) , the term Palakkad reminds the Malayali of Malampuzha. One of the biggest dams in the state, the area is also very pretty. There is an urban lore which says that the granaries will be full when the Malampuzha dam is full. Malampuzha dam and the gardens are turning 60 in this October. Let us take a walk through the history of the dam that still stands tall against time and also let us take a peek into those enchanting gardens.
Etched in stone
The idea of building a dam came about in order to bring more life to the agricultural sector of Palakkad. The Madras government decided to build a dam in 1914. Till 1944, the functioning of this plan was moving very slowly. The committee that was formed after the Second World War decided to start off the functioning of this plan in a full-fledged manner. On March 27, 1949, Bhakthavalsalam, the Minister for Water Resources, laid the first stone for starting off the project.
The dam that stands tall and the garden, are fruits of the hard work of 3000 workers, 500 supervisors, hundreds of other employees, and 30 engineers,. The workers came from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bengal and Kerala. They stayed on the site till the work was done.
The 6066 feet tall dam was built partially with huge rocks and partially with mud. 45,000 tons cement was used for the construction of the dam. 5.80 crores were spent for building this dam. The construction of the dam was interrupted in between due to heavy rains and floods. The construction works began in September when the monsoons receded. A committee that was formed under Punnaparayil Kozhipurathu Madhava Menon decided to name the dam Malampuzha. On November 28, 1955, construction of the dam was completed. The reigning Chief Minister during that time, Mr. Kamarajan is the one who inaugurated the dam on October 9 on the same year. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the Prime Minister during that time, had visited the gardens. The dam that was built in a short span of time in those years still stands tall.
When Malampuzha is full, the minds of people who live in Palakkad are happy. Wise old men used to say that the dam fills when the agriculture is at its best, since they both go hand-in-hand. The name Malampuzha undoubtedly fits this place that has a rich presence of mountains and abundance of water. Malampuzha can also be called the ‘King of Dams’ in Palakkad. In a place where there are no rivers or sea, the dam comes as a boon to those who are working in the agricultural sector. This place has a picturesque background of mountains and streams cascading downhill. The dam plays a crucial role in Palakkad where more than half of the people depend on agriculture for their living. The dam also quenches the thirst of the residents from city of Palakkad and nearby Panchayats. Hundreds of fishermen too, depend on this dam for their living. Irrigation, drinking water facilities, fishing, producing electricity, tourism are the different departments in which Malampuzha dam is diversified. Irrigation is done in Palakkad on over nearly a lakh acre of land, in different places. The project is situated in about 57 square miles of land and has a capacity of 8000 million cubic metres. It can hold water up to 125 ft above mean sea level. Built across the Bharathapuzha, the dam also sees the confluence of Myladipuzha, Aanakkal thodu, Kallanpuzha, Cherupuzha, Onnampuzha and Mayapparapuzha.
The Garden is Getting Ready
Flowers that smile, small rivulets that sparkle, green pathway, a children’s park, a toy train, a mini zoo, a music fountain, Japanese Park, a hanging bridge – and the epitome of beauty, of a female demon etched in stone by the renowned artist Kanayi Kunhiraman – these will never fail to enthral you. You can go boating; courtesy KTDC, watch the sunset and may be take a swim in the pool. All thanks to the government that decided to set up a garden next to the dam.
History Takes Shape
It was after a year of completing the construction of the dam that the stone was laid for the construction of the garden. It was on 27 March 1950 that the stone was laid. The garden was built in 36 acres, without destroying the natural beauty of the place.
Flowers for the garden were brought from Karnataka. 500 Mast trees, Vagai trees, and various flower trees were planted. The huge mangrove that was lying close by was made into a mango garden without losing its beauty. A small water body and swimming pool was made inside the garden. In 1968 and 1972, the statue of the beautiful female demon and swinging bridge were made respectively. The mini zoo was built in 1972. Monkeys, crocodiles, alligators, peacocks, and deer’s were the ones that were there initially.
The zoo shut down after the interference from forest department. Kalindi Park, Krishnapark, electric decorative lights in all sides, and Governor’s street were made later. There is one thing that the people who visited the park will always remember-statue of the beautiful female demon that is looking far away with her lovely eyes. This statue that was built by the famous sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman is one of the main attractions of this garden. Over the years, the sun, rains and time has tested the beauty of this female demon. Kanayi Kunhiraman will come next month to Malampuzha to add beauty to this female demon’s statue that is more than 50 years old. The statue of a crocodile that was built by Kanayi is also a miracle, and joy to the eyes of the on-looker. There are many statues like this in the garden. Snake park, clean water aquarium, rock garden, ropeway, Fantasy Park, water rides are the other attractive things in Malampuzha. Statistics prove that there are nearly 20 lakh people, Indians and tourists, visit Malampuzha every year.
For New Projects
As time goes by, the number of people who throng Malampuzha, just to escape the craziness of everyday life, are rising at a rapid rate. The beautiful garden, adventurous swinging bridge, the beautiful statue of the demon lady that can make any girl jealous, together is able to fill the heart of any person who comes to visit this place. Accusations of red-tapism that was made on the authorities had deterred the situation to a slight extent, especially for locals and tourists. One can blame it on the authorities who previously worked there. But now the authorities along with workers are joining hands together for aiming at new projects that can be brought here. If the Malampuzha ring road project that was started off 25 years ago comes into being, it will be a boost to Malampuzha tourism in a national level. This ring road passes through the forest for nearly 8 kms. Experts have pointed out that if a safari park is built here, it will attract more tourists to this place. Places that are fit for trekking and waterfalls make this area more attractive.
Thread Garden in Memories
The colours of nature merged with the artificial to create an unique thread garden at Malampuzha. It was one of its kind. This thread garden was destroyed in the floods in 1992. This rare garden was built using 5 crore metres of embroidery thread, and 60 lakhs was the amount that was shelled for this rare garden. It was a beautiful garden that superseded any other artificial gardens in the country. Artist Antony, along with 50 other artists worked for this for 12 years to bring it back to life.
When the Beauty is not Enough
In 2011, renovation works started in order to make this garden more beautiful. As part of this, the garden was closed for 5 months. The plan was to make it look the famous gardens in Mysore. A pond with waterfalls and greenery around was made for a start, and this was at the entrance of the park. Without cutting trees, tiles that shone like stones were put in the footpath. Foreign and Indian trees and flowers were planted, two swimming pools in keeping with international standards, electricity lights in all sides to decorate the place, musical fountain that adds to the fun while you roam around the garden, renovated toy train, children’s park, renovated Nandi park, Cactus Park, Mango Garden, Nature friendly park, Japanese Park, eateries, Green House, boat ride inside the garden, gallery are some of the newly started ventures here. Along with that, modern digital lights that reflect on the water, CCTV cameras for surveillance, and metal detectors are some of the other new things that have come up here. Telescope tower and Governor’s street are currently under renovation and will open soon.
The Dutiful Tourism Police
There are tourism police, ready to help tourists, inside and outside the garden. Special aid posts have also been set up here. There are 6 police officials here. These policemen have got special applause from the government and child line for the services that have been rendered by them.