The Legend of Chain Tree in Wayanad
As we huddled around the bonfire under a starlit sky, there was an uncomfortable moment of pause followed by a long eerie silence. We were at this beautiful and rustic resort in Mananthavady, Wayanad. Surrounded on the three sides by thick forest cover, the silence was being continuously interrupted by our friends from the wild. Not to be taken in by this spooky silence, Shinoj, the self-proclaimed local story-teller and the caretaker of the place decided to make the night even more spookier as he started off with the legend of the Chain Tree.
In his heavy guttural Malayalam accent he started. As the story goes, Karinthandan, the local chieftain of the tribals (Paniyas) during the period 1700–1750 AD, found the Wayanad Ghat route. He helped the British find a way through the dense forest of Wayanad. The Viceroy had earlier announced a handsome reward for those who will build a road across the forest. To take credit of the discovery and reward a British engineer killed Karinthandan.
But, the soul does not die, as they say, especially, the locals.
The soul of Karinthandan started troubling passengers and a number of accidents happened as a result, the natives called a Priest or Panditji (manthravadi) and he chained the soul of Karinthandan to a huge Banyan tree (aal maram).This tree is known as ‘Changala maram’ in Malayalam.
The stories assumed strange dimensions (read spice n’ masala) as they usually do in this part of the world (not because it’s a spice country and all that….) its just….well, you know. The iron chain had sunk deep into the trunk and the myth that surrounds it had rooted deeper in the minds of the natives. The tree has even become a place of worship. The truck drivers stop by and pray for a safe journey up and down the hilly terrain.
There is another version – the spirit in shackles was of a great sorcerer and a tribal chieftain named Lakkidi who was killed by the British explorers.
Whatever the case maybe, we know that there is a spirit that exists, however harmless, since it is chained. Thus, concluded Shinoj announcing that we all would go the next day to pay a visit to that tree/spirit/ghost in chains.
The long eerie silence returned.