Mayapott is near Kattappana, a small town best known for the wide variety of hill-spices traded there. The settlements and hamlets around Mayapott are primarily comprised of cardamom plantations, with scattered groves of pepper and other spices like clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. The present generation of farmers and spice growers belong to third generation of Malayalis, who migrated here from the erstwhile Travancore kingdom of Kerala state. However, a large part of the population, comprising the major work force in these plantations, is Tamils from the plains of Madurai and Theni, in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
The vibrant market of Kattappana is where locals go to buy vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, grocery and spices. An astonishing variety of rare edible-tubers and unusual types of bananas is a speciality of this market.
The way of life here is unique, as it is evolved over decades of pioneering settlement, assimilating the spirit of nature, and the hardships and simple truths of living close to the earth. It is a cohesive society of different religions, people and cultures, respectful of diversity: all people participate with equal fervour, in a Catholic feast-day or a hindu festival in the Temple of Shiva. Life in these hills is celebrated every day, rather than merely lived, by these simple hard-working people.
History of Mystic Mayapott
The history of cardamom goes back into antiquity; it was one of the spices for which India, and especially Malabar were famed. Cardamom in those days, was gathered from the plants growing wild in the rain forest, perhaps by the tribal inhabitants. It was brought down to the trading towns, in the plains on the eastern side of the Ghats, in what is now Tamil Nadu, and to the great inland emporiums of ancient Kerala. These centers of trade in Kerala were situated upon the largest rivers coming up from the coast and its network of backwaters; they usually found a place at the eastern extremity of the rivers’ navigable waters, just before they climbed into the forested hills, where no trading boats could go. The Pottamkulam family, which owns this plantation, has its roots in just such a merchant town called Aruvithura (now commonly known as Erattupetta) which was the premier trading center for pepper, ginger, and other hill-produce.
Even in those days, the Cardamom Hills were already being exploited of cardamom and other exotic forest produce, but not in the way it is now. The growers (or more correctly, ‘gatherers’) were from the western hinterland of Tamil Nadu, from the villages and towns immediately at the foot of the ghats. The Tamil cultivators would ascend the ghats at the beginning of the picking season – probably sometime in August or September, bringing workers and provisions with them. Each one would stake out a section of forest for himself, in which he would harvest cardamom from the plants growing wild there. Initially no one had permanent claim to any section of forest — the first person to arrive could claim for himself wherever he wanted, as much as he could hold with the number of workers he had at his command.
Over time, the claims became more permanent, and almost tantamount to ownership. Only then did people begin to actually ‘grow’ cardamom. Even then, it was initially a matter of dividing a few cardamom clumps, and planting out the suckers to get a few more new plants for the following years. The cultivators would leave at the end of the picking season — usually in November or early December, leaving the plants to themselves till they came back in the next season. The legacy of these beginnings is still evident in the customs of land ownership and demarcation of cardamom lands — in traditional cardamom lands, there is no crime called trespassing: one can walk anywhere one pleases, including on any other person’s land, just as in the days when it was all forest. But of course, picking from someone else’s plants is a strict no-no, as it must have been also in those days!
Mayapott is situated at the edge of the 105-acre Pottamkulam Cardamom Estate, at Kadamakkuzhy thavalam (hamlet). It is on one of the major roads connecting the small commercial hub, Kattappana, with Kumili, a town on the national highway near Thekkady, the entrance to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It is a boutique plantation villa nestled among the Cardamom Hills near Kattappana, and close to the Periyar Wild Life Sanctuary. It is an ideal nature hide-out for discerning travellers who look for a serene and nature friendly environment to refresh, rejuvenate and relax with family, loved ones and friends.
Mayapott takes its name from that of the huge rock around which it was built. This rock was used as a resting point for hunters; legend has it that the bonfire around which they rested was the only safe refuge from the herd of wild elephants that roamed the vicinity. The rainforest canopy, the floor of which houses the cardamom plantation, provides the verdant setting for Mayapott. A stream flows under the bridge that connects the two portions of the house; quite a delightful sight during the rains! There is a huge pond, used as a water-source for irrigating the plantation.
Our cooks can make traditional Kerala food, and some select Indian and continental dishes. We shall try our best to serve food that you request (if we know how to cook it)! The ingredients are sourced fresh from the local village market so the possible menu will depend oftentimes on availability. We do not use or recommend artificial colors or flavoring agents (such as MSG) in cooking. At Mystic Mayapott, our guests are most welcome to suggest their own recipes; our cook will be happy to oblige you if it is within his capacity!