Meppadi in Wayanad had witnessed a gold rush during the time of the British, who reached the place along with workers from various places. At that time, there were 33 British companies prospecting for gold here.
The search for gold lasted several decades. All the hills were dug up by the workers, most of them slaves from nearby Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as well as prisoners from China.
But it was a futile effort. All the mining carried out in the hills at Edambileri and Vellari produced no yellow metal. The origins of Meppadi town can be traced to this search for fortune.
The British failed in their effort even though they put in their best, employing workers from even far off China, but did not leave Meppadi. The misty hills enchanted the foreigners, who decided to stay put. They cleared the forests and planted tea and coffee; brought more men to work in the plantations.
Meppadi town, in fact, was founded to accommodate the labourers. 'Pady' demoted the huts where they lived. The area was called Melepadikal, meaning upper padys, which gradually became Meppadi. At that time, the biggest market in Wayanad was in Meppadi. Rice, boiled tapioca and vegetables reached the market from even far off places in Wayanad. Interestingly, the British had abandoned their dreams of striking gold by then.
Speculations regarding presence of gold deposits have been rife for a long time. However, official records stress that there is no gold in Meppadi. In 1798, the then Bombay government sent officials to the area to carry out mining to locate gold. In some parts of eastern Wayanad, the mining department conducted surveys. However, no major deposits of gold were found by them. When the fortune-seekers realised that their efforts were totally unprofitable, prospecting for gold came to an end in Meppadi. However, even after this, some lone British treasure hunters had roamed around the hills in search of gold.
According to local lore, the ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, had reached Meppadi before the British. William Logan in his Malabar Manual says that it was Tipu who built the road from Thamarassery Ghats to Cherambadi. This road is part of the Kozhikode-Ooty stretch which passes right through Meppadi town. However, historians have not found any evidence suggesting that Tipu reached the area in search of gold.
At present, Meppadi and surrounding areas are one of the most thickly populated places in Wayanad district. There are several tourist attractions nearby. Chembra hill which is a favourite among trekking groups is barely 7 km from Meppadi. Other tourist attractions like Soochipara, Meenmutti and Kanthanpara waterfalls are adjacent to Meppadi.
A fact file
There are 22 wards in Meppadi.
Major tourist attractions are Soochipara, Meenmutti and Kanthanpara waterfalls.
Meppadi has the highest population among the panchayats in Wayanad district
It is 7,000 ft above sea level.
Rivers like Nellimunda, Aranamalapuzha, Chooralmalapuzha, Kalladipuzha, Choladipuzha and Nilamburpuzha flow through here.
Perhaps, Meppadi is the only panchayat in Kerala which had a British man as its president. The first president of the panchayat, which was formed in 1935, was T E Haive.