Kadathanad has been immortalised by the ballads of the chekavas, Kerala's own knights without shining armours. The historical region of north Kerala roughly corresponds to Vadakara.
The balladeers sang about the unbeatable Thacholi Othenan, the valiant Aromal Chekavar and the female superstar Unniyarcha even before movie studios set about cashing in on the local heroes. The martial arts movies have gone out of vogue but the culture is very much alive in Vadakara.
The martial arts culture of Kadathanad hinges on the Lokanarkavu Devi Temple. Othenan is said to have prayed in the temple before every deadly match. The temple is actually a complex of three deities, Durga, Siva, and Vishnu. The temple's legendary past is evident in the murals, sculptures, and the banyan tree in front of it.
While you are at Lokanarkavu, do not miss the fusion of a banyan tree, mango tree, and a jackfruit tree which are intertwined.
Music lovers have a place to visit too. A nondescript house near the temple once belonged to the celebrated Carnatic singer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. He lived here until he was five years old. The family later shifted to Palakkad. The Bhagavathar used to visit the Lokanarkavu temple for the festivals.
Folklore celebrates a particular festival during which Thacholi Othenan challenged his master, Kathiroor Gurukkal. After a fierce fight at Ponniyam, Othenan killed the Gurukkal. You can still see the ancestral house of Othenan and his brothers Kelukkurup and Komakurup.
Football-crazy kids have taken over the yard where the masters honed their fighting skills. The house is situated in a scenic setting in a vale. The house has since turned into a temple, managed by the Nair Service Society.
An adjacent temple commemorates the Pulluvan who avenged Othenan's death. Othenan was shot by his rival, Mayin Kutty,the legend goes.
Another must-go destination is Ilavannoor Madhom, the birthplace of Unniyarcha. The heroics of the martial arts masters of Kadathanad eclipses the countless movies that were based on the ballads. A trip to Kadathanad is an action flick in itself.