A high view of the world around from Nadukani

There are several places bear the name ‘Nadukani’ in the Kottayam, Idukki, and Thiruvananthapuram districts of Kerala, signifying the essence of the name carries more than just the place identity
A hilltop shrine in Nadukani
A hilltop shrine in Nadukani Photo| vincent pulickal

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Malayalam flick Shutter has lines as these in one of its songs:

"Nadukani churathinte nerukayil ninnukonden

Naadu kaanaan varumo nee thathamme

Swantham naadukaanan varumo nee thathamme."

The Nadukani Churam mentioned in the song a significant jungle tract that links Kerala and Tamil Nadu, probably akin to the famed Thamarasseri Churam of Malabar.

There is an interesting anecdote on its discovery, which apparently facilitated travel to the Nilgiris. William Campbell, a British government public works officer, unearthed the pass, aided by a tribesman and a pet dog.

The story goes that the British officer and his team got lost in the dense jungles of Tamil Nadu, in the area the tribals referred to as ‘Nadukani’.

The name eventually came to stay and now, the pass that links the forest tracts is known as ‘Nadukani Churam’.

Several such places bear the name ‘Nadukani’ in the Kottayam, Idukki, and Thiruvananthapuram districts of Kerala, signifying the essence of the name carries more than just the place identity and suggesting a cultural connect.

In Thiruvananthapuram, Nadukani is a beautiful spot on a hill, steadily becoming a tourist stopover.

According to Kattakode Thankachan P, a resident and panchayat member, there are two tales about how the name ‘Nadukani’ originated. “The place was inhabited by the Kani tribes. Hence the name Nadukani. Another folklore suggests that it is an uphill spot from where we can see the whole of Thiruvananthapuram, including Ponmudi and the international airport. Hence, the spot got the name ‘Nadukani’ to mean the place from where the entire ‘naadu’ is visible.

The aforementioned song also points to a place at a considerable height, offering a panoramic view of the ‘naadu’.

Incidentally, the strategic locati1on led to ideas on developing the place as a tourist spot. “During the UDF government, Rs 27 lakh was granted to develop Nadukani as a tourist destination under the rural tourism scheme,” says Thankachan.

“Although the subsequent government did not follow up on the project, we are now working to revive it in collaboration with the panchayat and the tourism department. The comprehensive plan includes ambitious features like a glass bridge to enhance the site’s appeal.”

Historians hold different opinions on the origins of Nadukani. According to historian Vellanad Ramachandran, “the name originates from the word ‘nadu’ or ‘naduka’, which ‘mean to plant’.

“When we observe the surroundings from the spot, we see expanses of paddy fields and agricultural lands. This landscape likely inspired the name ‘Nadukani,’ meaning ‘the place where we can see the agricultural lands’,” he says.

“There was a Buddha temple on the way to the Nadukani hilltop. While Buddhism has many different lineages, the two main branches are Theravada and Mahayana, with Vajrayana being part of Mahayana. Arya Manjushri Mula Kalpa, written in the 6th–7th century, was the ritual manual of Vajrayana. There is only one manuscript of the book, and that was found in old Travancore.

“Archaeologists found many sculptures of animals made in mud from Nadukani. In Vajrayana, also known as Manthrayana, the Buddha is seen as a protector of animals. There is a temple in Tamil Nadu where, if an animal falls sick, making its form in soil and placing it before the deity is believed to cure it. The sculptures found in ‘Nadukani’ prove the existence of such practices.”

What’s in a name

Weekly column on the history of place names. Got any suggestions? Write to xpresskochi@gmail.com

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