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Story 04

Bear Hearl

In 1948, there was a story that caught everyone’s imagination and spread like wildfire as it crackled in radios across the world. A story that was told in whispers across the high seas then disappeared into the dense jungles of Sakleshpur, till it found a home in the tea estate at which it remained as folklore. 67 years later, we found that story placed gently on the table in the rooms of Sinna Dorai, home of the estate managers of yesteryear and that was the beginning of a conversation. A quick exchange of letters between two writers resulted in a pursuit of that incredible story. A pursuit that was taken through their individual lenses of belief and reason. In 2016, that story is here to be told once again. Read like a bookRead like a movie


You will not believe what I have stumbled onto here in Kadamane. I have been staying at the old estate bungalow for some days now. Last night, while a ferocious storm raged outside my window, I came across an obscure file. It appeared rather unimportant. I picked it up out of sheer boredom and was immediately struck by the title. It read: The Bear Girl Of Kadamane. One Mr. Angus Hutton had recorded in great detail, an astonishing incident that occurred in 1948. The story is so fascinating, I didn’t bat an eyelid until the reading was done.

In few words, this is what the story is about - Deep in the jungles of Sakleshpur, inside a cave, a sloth bear was found with a human girl child. The Sloth bear had been raising the child for 3 years.

Before I go into details, I want to ask you, what do you make of it?



A Bear Girl? For 3 years? That sounds almost impossible. No, that sounds completely impossible in my head. I can’t seem to believe it no matter what the reason or rhyme. What has Mr. Hutton said? Does he have photographs? What details are these? This was right after independence? Did any Indian authority record this? What happened to the girl? What happened to the bear? So many questions spring through my mind. What do the people of Kadamane make of this? Are they clouded by the same disbelief? Or has it assumed the role of a legend like it often does in small isolated villages such as these?

So many questions. Tell me what you know,


Dear Unconvinced,

Yes. A ‘Bear Girl’ they called her. I cannot yet tell you how the residents of Kadamane recall this event - whether fact or fiction, since it happened over 65 years ago. I must admit, I will be very interested to find this all out for myself and have made an effort already; just this morning, speaking in broken tamil, I mentioned the ‘Karadi Ponnu’ to a tea worker. I could barely understand what he told me but this much I understood - there was such a story that was told by his grandmother. He does not remember it very well.

There was an article that was published by the Times Of India reporting the incident. Mr. Hutton, in his story does mention a Mysore Govt. ‘Police photographer’ being present to photograph the Bear Girl after her capture. I also happened to pass by the Kadamane Hospital. It is where the Bear Girl was housed for a few months. It all seems very real to me. I wonder what you are more - Curious or sceptical?


Dear Mr. Ripley,

I am finding it hard to believe this, so I must say that I am more sceptical than curious. I know all these questions are stuck in fading memories and uncertainities but here are just a couple more. Do they have any hospital records? Have you seen the photograph of the girl? That would be interesting as a starting point, it would also be interesting to hear what the older kadamane residents would say about this incident, though I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that.

As far as the Times of India goes, we both know my opinions of the what the Times stands for. Give me more my friend. I have just heard three ghost stories, and they all seem to have more evidence than this. Alright they don’t, but you see my limitations with the idea of a Karadi ponnu, as wonderful as she sounds.

This isn’t enough. Give me more.


Alright then.

I see you have already taken a notion to dismiss this tale as lore. I get it. You want more. But I’m afraid my answers will be met with more questions that I suspect you have already composed to be hurled at me. Best not to entangle ourselves in this vicious circle.

Presently, it appears that only witnessing the Bear Girl with your own eyes will convince you. This, we both know is impossible. However, what if you heard the tale from somebody who has indeed seen such a creature?

In Angus Hutton’s account, he mentions that a Mr. Norman Woods, who was the manager of the Kadamane estate in the 1970s, came across another ‘Bear Child’ in the Jungle. This time, it was a 11 year old boy who was so strong that he broke through the cage after 3 days in captivity. He disappeared into the woods, never to be found again. Mr. Norman Woods, now retired, lives in the lush hills of misty Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. I have written to him and he is willing to speak to us about it. I will see you in Coonoor. Or maybe not?

Mr. Woods & The Other
Bear Child.

Pankaj, What an intriguing morning that was. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Mr Norman Woods but it has made me all the more curious and I want to dig a little deeper. It’s still all quite unreal to me, but let me try to put all that we heard into perspective.

So it was 1971, a good 24 years after the Bear girl was found. A young, vibrant Mr Norman woods, was scouting across a jungle when he came across a strange little child of his own. A boy who was wild and violent. He spoke a strange tongue and fought off Norman and the men who tried to bring him down. While I was surprised that they brought back the wild boy back to the Kadamane estate, I was even more surprised that they took him back to the same place and left him there. ‘A little devil’ was the term used by Papa Maestri, the leader of the tribal elders, from a tribe who Norman called ‘The most docile men and women on the planet’.

Now here’s the interesting part for me, there was only the slightest reference to the original bear girl at the time of the boy’s capture. It seems to have been enough time for traces of an incredible legend to disappear. Norman did not take any photographs, ‘I didn’t think it was unusual enough to take a photograph and I regret not doing it on hindsight,' Said Mr. Woods. And when he finally met Angus Hutton in 1991, the man who captured the bear girl, the two adventurers made three completely unique observations. One, Angus was convinced that Norman had seen a bear child of his own. Two, Norman was convinced that the boy he caught was not a bear child and three, norman was now sure that Angus had caught a bear child. Such was the detail that Angus expressed in their brief encounter.

Now here I am, taking a leap into your belief that this is true and I am curious to see if the shadows we are chasing comes into the scrutiny of all this yellow light.

So I will join you in Kadamane. For what struck me most about Mr Norman woods was his ability to pull out interesting little details from that encounter. ‘It was pouring that day’ he said. I can’t remember what the weather was like yesterday leave alone forty years ago. But then again, I can’t tell if I am being lured into poetry, for Sakleshpur is after all one of the rainiest places on earth.

There are too many words here my friend and too few footsteps to match. So, I will see you on the other side. Naveed.

A walk into the jungle,
with Mr. Hutton.

Naveed, fascinated as you were in Coonoor, meeting good Mr. Woods and hearing his story, I know you are now only more curious. Where we are now, Kadamane - the home in the forest - holds all answers.

While you seek to quell your doubts about the Bear Girl and I look only to further my understanding of this enchanting mystery; one I have already, firmly placed my belief in, I must say our rendezvous could not have been more well suited. For we meet at the crossroads of doubt and unwavering belief.

Let us start walking now, back in time, until we arrive here in Kadamane on a warm afternoon in April. Here begins the story of the Bear Girl of Kadamane.

The year is 1947

Young Mr. Angus Hutton was employed by the Brooke Bonds Tea Company.

A wealthy, British establishment that owned much of the Southern Indian jungle lands. He had travelled extensively in these dense mountains, demarcating estate land from migratory routes of elephants that ran a great length across South India.

The Kadamane Tea Estate in Saklaspur (Known today as Sakleshpur) was located at 3000 ft in the hills, surrounded by wild, unexplored forests of the wondrous Western Ghats. With an annual rainfall averaging 360 inches, the Kadamane Estate was the wettest place in India. And with such rainfall came the largest leeches in the country. In 1930, it received a record 650 inches of rainfall!

Elephants, bisons, wild pigs, deer, sambar, monkeys and squirrels roamed freely here. The most fearsome bunch however,were the Tigers, Leopards and Sloth Bears that prowled in abundance.

Mr. Hutton was deployed in the Madura District when he received a message from the acting manager of the Kadamane estate, Chris Leslie, with whom he had shared many adventures in the jungles. Mr. Hutton was invited to visit the estate to investigate and pursue the matter of a fearsome man eating Tiger that had been picking off lonesome, unsuspecting Sholaga tribes-folk, who were living in and around Kadamane.

Mr.Hutton travelled a distance of 500 miles on his trusty 500 cc Triumph motorcycle to arrive at Kadamane in three days.

On the first day, he met with a grieving tribesman who informed of the loss of his wife and infant to this sinister cat. Very little of his wife remained while there was no trace at all of the poor child.

Chris Leslie and Mr. Hutton began at once the pursuit of the man-eater. Accompanying them were 2 Sholagas, 2 Puliyar trackers (members of another tribe) and Chinnapan - The gun bearer/tracker.

In Mr. Hutton's own words -

'We went armed to the teeth.'

For weaponry, they carried:

375 Mannlicher-Schnoaeur Rifle &
Webley.45 Revolver (Backup)

Angus Hutton

Double Barrel 12 guage Paradox Shotgun


375 Mannlicher Carabine
(Property of Kadamane) & .38 colt revolver

Chris Leslie

Shortly after they set out, they came across very fresh Tiger pugmarks beside a creek.

The trackers were certain these pugmarks belonged to the beast they were out to get. Because one foot had a significantly larger impression than the other. Also clearly visible was the mark of a porcupine quill lodged in the swollen foot. The trackers noted that this development had rendered the cat incapable of ambushing and chasing down agile prey in the forest, instead choosing to go after humans; slow and very vulnerable.
Advancing deeper into the jungle, they stumbled onto another sign; one of the trackers found the half-eaten carcass of a domestic cow stowed away in a thicket. It was then decided that they wait for the Tiger to return to its kill so they could shoot it down.

The trackers were sent back and asked to make a lot of noise as they went. This was to lead the Tiger to believe they had left had it been observing them from hiding. The idea would work certainly, for Tigers most definitely couldn't count!

Mr. Hutton and Chris Leslie found a spot to hide near the carcass and waited patiently. Guns cocked, slow deep breaths, fingers hovering tensely over the trigger, - their wait began.

As for what happened next, Naveed, I will quote to you words from Mr. Hutton's account of the encounter:

As the shadows lengthened, we kept imagining movements in the bare patch below us and when we heard a troupe of monkeys hurling abuse and alarm signals, we knew the Tiger was moving. We were not worried as the wind was blowing from his direction and as Tigers have poor sense of smell, (Which is just as well as they stink to high heaven) and we could smell this one coming and knew he was getting pretty close.

Suddenly, there was an almighty roar up the hill just behind us which echoed round the valley and we both got one hell of a fright. As we were now in total darkness, I very slowly looked round and could just make out the Tiger's head and two ears.

After the longest 30 seconds in my life, we heard the Tiger grunting as it padded down the hill. Suddenly, there was silence, with only the sound of heavy breathing, fortunately not ours as we were holding our breaths! Then a twig suddenly snapped in front of us, which called for instant action!

In a fraction of a second, I switched on the torch in my left hand, all we could see was a wall of stripes just a few feet away, with a large open mouthed head, eyes dazzled by the torch's beam, at my end and a long angrily waving tail at the other. Chris had no room to adjust and stuck the barrel into its chest and fired point blank from his waist in the same moment as I fired the .45 revolver into its mouth.

The Tiger leapt straight into the air, turned a couple of somersaults and lay still 20 feet away, presumably dead.

Mr. Hutton and Chris Leslie were paraded as heroes in the village. The tribals rejoiced and the Mysore Government bestowed upon them a grand reward of 10 Rupees.

Stay with me Naveed, as we fast forward three years later, to 1951. With so many Tigers thriving in Saklaspur, there was bound to be another episode of a Tiger turned man-eater. And we must join Mr. Hutton on yet another hunt. Except, this one was special.

This time accompanied by Chinnapan the gun bearer/tracker and a handful of tribals, Mr. Hutton set off into the jungle, picking up on traces and tracks of the elusive cat. Suddenly, his eyes fell upon a peculiar creature that had just emerged from a bamboo growth.

Mr Hutton observed - 'We all froze - I thought at first 'it' was a black panther - But no. 'It' had no tail; maybe a Monkey or a Bear cub? - No. 'It' wasn't hairy enough. I had been covering 'It' with my rifle and in a whisper asked the Puliyar tracker what the hell 'It' was.'

'Shaitani, Sir!' Shuddered the Pulliar as he shot up a tree, joining the rest of the trackers. 'The devil! Kill it, Sir! Kill it at once!' They pleaded.

Just then, what was unmistakably a full grown sloth bear came into view and let out an alarm call. Mr. Hutton was up the tree by now. He saw the large bear disappear into a thicket followed by the creature he had just seen. It followed in the Bear's path but not before casting an urgent glance over its shoulder, toward Mr.Hutton. Curious as he was, young Angus Hutton was at once, taken by the mystery.

'We'll get the Tiger soon. But first, we must find out what this 'Shaitani' you speak of is all about.', he announced.

'We go often to a place up the rocky hills to collect honey, Sir. At the base of the cliffs are caves around where we might find the ‘Shaitani', Sir.' Informed a Pulliar tribesman.

Encouraged to investigate further, Mr. Hutton drew up a plan and set to work immediately - two of his trackers were sent back to the estate bungalow with a message for the Manager while Mr. Hutton and Chinnapan were lead to the cave by the remaining Pulliar man. The note carried by the trackers informed the Manager of the situation and requested that the 'Kurumba Tribals' be sent back with the Pulliars, carrying their apparatus with them.

The Kurumba Tribals were skilled coir net makers. They had arrived at Kadamane some days ago seeking employment. They used their nets to trap wild pigs which strayed into tea nurseries. Also requested was a parcel of firecrackers that were commonly used to scare away elephants.

An hour later, the party reached the cave area.

It wasn't very hard to find the cave where the sloth bear and the 'Shaitani' had been living. On a patch of sandy earth by the cave, the Pulliar tracker pointed out fresh tracks of the sloth bear and another set of smaller imprints that didn't nearly resemble Bear tracks.

Mr. Hutton and his men surveyed the cave and found that there were two exits and the ceiling had narrow openings. Presently, there were no movements or noises from within the cave. The men had made sure to speak in whispers and move about in silence.

The Puliars and the wandering Kurumba tribals joined Mr. Hutton and the rest some hours later. The Kurumba men were crucial to this undertaking because of their experience with trapping wild animals. Mr. Hutton had decided not to shoot down or wound the inhabitants of the cave as Bears generally never bothered humans.

It was planned that both the exits be covered with nets fastened to large boulders. A Sholaga man would drop a firecracker close to the smaller entrance, hopefully chasing the Bear and the Shaitani toward the other exit.

One of the tribals was positioned on a tree before the cave and had a good view of the drama. If the Bear was first to approach the exit, he was to signal the men to raise the nets for it to pass. Chinnapan would then fire his estate shot gun over its head to keep it running. The nets would then be brought down immediately to capture the 'Shaitani'. In the instance that both creatures ran out together, the nets were to remain and then it was up to Mr. Hutton to decide how the Bear would be extracted.

With everything in place, the Sholaga dropped a firecracker at Mr. Hutton's signal. A ‘Thunderous bang shook the ground' and covered everything in a cloud of smoke. Just as the smoke was clearing, out shot the large, hairy Bear very much like a rocket. The deft Kurumbas hoisted up the net just time. The beast charged forth and sped down the hill as Chinnapan fired his gun after it, multiple times.

The nets were brought down in a jiffy. They waited 5 minutes with no result and dropped another firecracker. Another deafening explosion rang through the hills. The smoke cleared and the nets were untouched. They heard noises from within and knew it was still in there. Mr. Hutton decided against dropping another firecracker as he feared they might hurt it. So they lit a smokey fire to force out the 'Shaitani'.

Mr.Hutton described the next few moments in these words precisely -

'So we lit a Smokey fire at the entrance and achieved almost instant results as a smallish dirty little creature making strange noises came out on all fours and blundered blindly into the net and seemed to be all 'teeth and claws' as 'It' fought capture and took six men to hold 'It' down and tie 'It's' hands and legs together carefully with cloth and put a gag in 'It's' mouth to avoid getting bitten.'

The fiercely revolting 'Shaitani' writhed and growled angrily as they laid her out on an improvised stretcher and secured her to it. It was astonishing to see the 'Shaitani' up close. The Sholaga's had mentioned to Mr. Hutton that this land had seen many Shaitanis in the past and that these creatures were the work of a sorcerer. For the first time ever, one had been captured.

They saw that it was a human girl child 5-6 years old. She was smelly, filthy and had long matted hair. Her enlarged spleen indicated she had Malaria. There were scars and bite marks all along her neck and back. She had long, broken nails and had developed callouses on her knees and the back of her hands. Presumably form walking like a bear. In essence, her body was human, her mind was wild. Her bloodshot eyes bore in them a deep sense of terror - a vision that haunted Mr. Hutton for many days.

The 'Shaitani', now being called the 'Karadipullai' (Bear Girl in Tamil) was taken to the Kadamane estate hospital.

The doctor sedated her with 'Pethedine' so she could be untied. The kind nurses cut her hair, trimmed her nails and washed her clean before dressing her wounds. While they were treating the wounds on her back, they saw several Citraces (cuts made with sharp bamboo that have charcoal rubbed into them to form raised weals) on her shoulders. These markings were known to be made by the Sholaga folk on newborns.

A Sholaga man was called in to examine the markings. On inspecting closer, he '... almost passed out with shock and announced to everyone that it was a miracle as this was indisputably, his brother's daughter, who had believed to have been eaten by the Tiger 3 years earlier.'
The news of such an incredible discovery spread like wild fire around Kadamane. The Bear Girl Of Kadamane was kept to be treated and rehabilitated at the estate hospital for about three months. She was very wild and difficult to manage. She refused to communicate or accept a human into her space.
3 weeks later, a government enquiry was arranged and all the members involved in the capture were interviewed by the officials. A visit to the site of capture was necessary. For credibility, the famed writer and wildlife specialist Jim Corbett, Col. R.W Burton, the chairman of wildlife management board of India and the Maharaja of Mysore's taxidermists - the Van Ingen brothers and experts from the Mysore forest and Game department were consulted for their opinions.

In fact, Jim Corbett himself had come face to face with another Bear Child in North India in 1914. The girl was called 'Goongi' and she was raised by a Bear. This story was documented and published by his biographer friend, R.E. Hawkins in a book titled 'Jim Corbett's India'

After examining and debating the evidence, the inquiry arrived at this conclusion: The man-eating Tiger that Mr. Angus Hutton and Chris Leslie shot down in 1948 had only killed and eaten the Sholaga man's wife, while their daughter had managed to crawl to some place safe or had simply been left behind by the Tiger. Around the same time, the Bear too had lost her cub to the Tiger. Somehow, the Bear had found the girl and taken her in as a surrogate cub. She then raised this child for 3 years!
The Bear still had milk and the baby could suckle for a couple of years. While the Bear held up the baby close to her in her arms, the claws caused scars inevitably. Over time the Bear had taught the child to forage for berries and insects. In this way, the child did not starve to death and lived the life of a Bear cub with her new mother, undisturbed and unseen.

What happened to the Bear Girl Of Kadamane after her capture is another story altogether. But these are the events that unfolded here in Kadamane, where we walk now, in Mr. Hutton's footsteps...

From the one who questions. From the one that seeks - a note to the reader.

After listening to the vivid description of this fascinating story through Pankaj’s eyes. I was consumed by a silence. A silence that wasn’t cautious any more but certain. I went looking for reason in the never ending arms of the Kadamane estate. I wanted to meet witnesses that were present, yet were still consumed by the past.

Days passed in the excitement of finding direction in their defining memories, but it wasn’t to much avail. I found vague recollections of stories being passed around like gossip across thin walls. These memories came from everywhere, from unborn wombs to transparent glass rooms. There was a man who was yet to meet his maker, firmly sitting in his mother’s womb as she heard stories of the bear girl and passed it on as he was born and grew up under open skies.

All of those photographs and documents that were taken in the chaos of the bear girl’s discovery were now lost in forgotten cupboards and dying buildings. I decided to come to Kadamane after meeting Norman Woods. Norman made Angus hutton sound real in my head, till then his sense of adventure and his never ending legion of accomplishment was almost unimaginable to me. The more I learnt of Angus, the more hope I had of being proved wrong. I always woke up a skeptic but I wanted to often sleep as a believer.

And though we managed to reach Angus himself, Angus had already told us all that he wanted to say to the world. His story was there for everyone to read, there was nothing he had to add. I stared at the grainy photos for as long as I could and I did retrace his journey through a forgotten world. Yet as much as I wanted to take his word for it, I wished there was more to hear, see and feel.

All of my questions needed only so little to be addressed, leave alone answered. Don’t get me wrong though, I do love and live this story, But to me, it is just that, a fantastic story. Why am I so certain? It curiously isn’t the lack of evidence that I have so far talked about, but a realisation. In this strange pursuit of reason, I tried to understand where I often found reason. And the answer was always the same. I have never had to chase after reason, it was reason that always came flooding down my throat. For reason doesn’t need convincing. It is simply there, seemingly bored of its own existence while containing an unbelievable world of wonder. And to me, only that sense of reason has the expression to convince me whole. For now, I leave Angus and the bear girl in the immortal world of my imagination and all of yours. - Naveed

Dear Reader,

The account penned my Mr. Hutton that I read in the file at the Bungalow was a splendid recollection that painted every event, every moment and every khaki-clad gentleman in the sharpest tones in the mind's eye. The rainy jungle unfurled itself, tribesmen cast their nets and tigers roared out to me from the pages. I saw everything.

However, walking around the Kadamane estate with Naveed, digging for clues and seeking out the remnants of such a fantastic tale was a peculiar experience. I found that it was much like pitching into thick mist; chasing reluctant shadows and straining ears to catch the faintest whispers.

Just for a while, I became entangled in the same pursuit as Naveed; I wanted tangible proof. Undeniable evidence. Not to convince me of the reality of the Bear Girl. But to bring me as close as was possible to her hushed existence. I wanted those shadows to emerge from the darkness. I wanted those faint whispers to grow into deafening voices.

Then, something beautiful happened…

After months of trying to find any traces that may lead me to Angus Hutton’s family, friends or anybody who might have known him, by some great stroke of luck, I found myself communicating with Debbie Dennis, a Melbourne resident. She happened to be a distant relative of Mr. Angus Hutton himself. To my surprise, she told me he had been living in Queensland! On my behalf, She was kind enough to ask him for permission to retell his story. He said to her, ‘As long as he has permission from the ‘Planter’s Chronicle’, he can write about it all he wants.’ - And that was it. He didn’t really want to know what I thought about his story. Neither was he concerned if me or anybody else believed it. Regardless of what anybody thought about it, it was a story that just was. After all the decades of amazing adventures in the jungles around the world, he had been living out a quiet life in a nondescript neighbourhood. in very much the same way, the story of the Bear girl that he wrote, though an unbelievable incident, bore an existence not extending beyond a dusty file in a forgotten cabinet.

It was then I realised, that incredible tales such as these don’t call for attention. They don’t call for collective gasps or the skipping of heartbeats. They don’t demand anybody’s excitement or disbelief. They simply exist, in their own little universe, without expectations.

It only makes me wonder how many more phenomenal tales there are for all of us to discover and debate. But how much we know, will always be overshadowed by how much we do not. Unless we acknowledge this, our will to perceive the incredible will be diminished.

Stories, incidents, accounts, voices, rumours - we can only examine them by a dying light until they flicker and fade. Because time is a forward motion. And there isn’t a thing you and I can do to change that. - Pankaj

Angus Hutton - Thank you for allowing us to retell your story. For documenting your incredible adventures.

Radhika Cariappa - Thank you for making this story possible. For being most helpful in putting us in touch with all those related to this story and for hosting us at the Kadamane Estate.

K.M. Cariappa (General Manager of the Kadamane Estate) - For taking time out from your busy schedule to arrange for meetings with people in the estate. For showing us around and giving us all the material required for the story.

Mr. M.M. Venkatachalam, Director, Kadamane Estate - Thank you for providing us with support and permissions to retell the story that occured in the Kadamane estate in 1947.

Norman Woods - Thank you for being kind enough to host us in Conoor and sharing with us your experiences in the wild. For providing us with articles and contacts of relevant people.

Ullas Mennon, UPASI - Thank you for granting us permission to retell and share the story published in the 'Planter's Chronicle'.

Stephen Flemming - Thank you for lending your voice that made this story rich in content. For always being encouraging and contributing in more ways than one.

Jayalakshmi - Thank you for once again lending your voice. For beautifuly introducing the reader to an untold story.

The staff at Kadamane Estate - Many wonderful people at the estate helped us in the developing of this story. They hosted us, assisted us on tours, showed us around the estate and participated in interviews. For this, we thank them deeply.

Many thanks to Rishabh Malhotra, AnnaMaria Nagy, Deepak Nair, Boopesh shankar and Sujaikanth Moorthy for lending their wonderful voices to this experience.

Music credits :‘All India Radio’

Told By
Angus Hutton Story &
archive photos
Naveed Mulki Words &
Production of sound
Shaktiraj Jadeja Pictures & Moving
Anoop Selvin Art &
Tom Jose Interactive Design &
Front end code
Raghunath J Code, Backend
Akshay MV Visual effects