Here is one more reason to visit Kerala in 2016. The first phase of Jatayu Nature Park, a one of its kind rock-themed nature park with the world's largest bird sculpture will have a soft launch by the end of January. The project spanning an area of 65 acres is the first Public-Private Partnership (PPP) tourism initiative in the state of Kerala under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model. We take a look at the history of Jatayupara and how the transformation took place over the years.
The myth and history of Jatayupara
Chadayamangalam or Jatayumangalam is a one of those towns you pass by on the MC Road. But it has a historic significance – a myth that connects it to Ramayana. Jatayu was the son of Aruna and Sheyni. And it was Jatayu who tried to stop Ravana while he was trying to abduct Sita. Ravana fought with the bird and in the end, cut off its wings. Jatayu, it is said, fell down on the rocks here, lending it the name of Jatayupara. The bird, they say, stayed alive till Lord Rama came this way. Jatayu breathed his last on Rama's lap. A footprint, believed to have been of Lord Rama is visible outside a small temple that remains on top of the hill. Once, these hills were under the threat of mining, but the timely action of officers led to it being preserved and gradually over the years, these hills became a popular tourist destination.
The concept and the execution
A decade ago, it was decided that a sustainable, responsible, eco-tourism project had to be set up at Jatayupara. It was decided that film-maker and sculptor Rajiv Anchal, who directed the Malayalam movie 'Guru' (1997), which was India's official entry to the Oscars to the Best Foreign Film category would head the project.
"It is my dream project," says Rajiv Anchal as he goes back in time. "Long long ago, while I was still a student, I had prepared a project for a bird sculpture and presented it to the tourism department. And when the project for Jatayupara came up, I was one of the contestants. My project was approved because it had utility spaces under the sculpture." But the going, he says, was tough. "It took nearly two years just to set up a winch to move the building materials up the hill and about seven to complete the work." 'I took a sabbatical from movie making and camped on top of the rocks in a temporary building in which the workers were staying,' he goes on.
The highlight of the 100-crore project definitely is the huge sculpture of Jatayu. Standing at 70 ft height, the 200 ft long, 150 ft wide bird statue will the the biggest in the world. It is build using concrete and given a stone finish. It will offer a bird’s eye view experience from 1,000 feet above sea level. Below the sculpture is a 15,000 sq ft area, which houses a 6D theatre with a Ramayana age theme. Audio-visual based digital museum will show glimpses from the epic Ramayana. "Jatayu", says Rajiv Anchal, "stands tall as a protector of women, which makes mythology a relevant message even today."
The Nature Park will have three different zones, the first being the sculpture. However, the first to open up in January will be the adventure zone. "Built along a two-kilometre radius, it will be ideal for team building activities for corporates and large groups. There will be about 20 different games like paint ball, laser tag and rock-climbing rifle shooting, ATVs and rappelling. The USP will be that it is set in a natural environment," he adds. A state-of-the-art cable car, a first in South India, will also be set up here.
The third phase will include a state-of-the-art wellness zone. A cave resort and Siddha centre built into the a natural cluster of rocks in the hill will make healing a different experience. There will be a spa also. "The wellness zone will offer Sidha and Ayurveda treatment to 'premium' clients, which will include celebrities," he said. There will be a hellitaxi service, called Pushpaka Vimanam, after the mythical vehicle of Ravana, for guests who are coming for treatments. The mega opening of the Park will happen around Onam (August - September)
The Jatayu Nature Park will be a gated affair with ample parking spaces. It is Eco-friendly and will follow a no-plastic policy. Security will be of utmost importance and CCTVs will be put in place before the soft opening. The project will have rainwater harvesting and medicinal plant gardens. The staff will keep the surroundings clean. Alcohol and non-veg food will not be allowed inside the premises. There will be a restaurant in the Park.
Rajiv Anchal is of the view that once functional, the park will change tourism experience in the state. So, are you planning on a visit soon?
Where is Jatayupara?
Jatayupara is in Chadayamangalam in Kollam district. It is about 40 kms away from Kollam and about 51kms away from Thiruvananthapuram.
The nearest airport is Thiruvanathapuram
The Jatayu Nature Park does not offer any stay options other than at the medical facility. They have tied up with a couple of hotels in the town to cater to the tourist boom that they expect.