The first phase of the Jatayu Nature Park, an ambitious tourism project worth Rs 100 crore in Kerala’s Kollam district, is all set to open in January 2016, project head Rajiv Anchal told IndianExpress.com.
The nature park project envelopes small mountains, valleys, cliffs and rock-formations spread over 65 acres in Chadayamangalam and has been conceived to promote mythological, adventure and wellness tourism. The highlight of the project is a giant sculpture of Jatayu, the mythical bird that tried to rescue Sita from the clutches of Raavan in the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to local legend, the bird fell here after it was struck down by Raavan.
The sculpture — measuring 200 ft long, 150 ft wide and 70 ft in height — is being described as the largest bird statue in the world and will sit on top of a hill. It will house a 6D theatre and an audio-visual based digital museum that will show glimpses from the Ramayana.
“It took us seven years to build the sculpture. It is basically a concrete structure that has been given a stone finish. Building it has been a major struggle as the terrain was hard and we had to carry all the materials to the top,” said Anchal, a critically acclaimed Malayalam film director and sculptor. His film Guru was India’s official nomination for the foreign language section at the 1997 Academy Awards.
On the idea behind the sculpture, Anchal says,”You know, Jatayu has relevance even today. It was the protector of a woman. Mythology has a message to give to all of us.” The sculpture will be open to public viewing in time for Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival, next year.
Apart from the sculpture, the nature park also has an adventure field with games like paint ball, laser tag and rock-climbing, aimed more at tourists from corporate companies or large groups who have a taste for adventure. This phase will open in January itself.
The third phase is wellness-oriented, Anchal explained, which furthers health packages — mainly Ayurveda and Siddha – to travellers. This is mainly aimed at premium customers and celebrities, he added.
The park, which is a PPP initiative designed on a BOT (build-operate-transfer) model between the Kerala government and Guruchandrika Builders and Property Private Limited, which has financed the project, is being touted as the next big thing for the state’s tourism model.
According to government data, Kerala accounted for only 4.1% of foreign tourist arrivals in India with more than 9 lakh foreign tourists arriving in the state in 2014. It did not feature at all among the top 10 states for domestic tourists in the same year.
It is indeed surprising to note how a state, which was named by National Geographic as one of the ten paradises in the world, with its idyllic coffee plantations, serene beaches and beautiful backwaters could lag in the game for footfall.
This year, there has been a marginal increase of 7 per cent in the number of travellers flowing into the state. As many as 76 lakh people from within India are reported to have visited Kerala this year in the first 10 months (Jan-Oct) compared to 71 lakh last year.