Travel Bucket List: India – Kerala Part 4

Thrissur, also known by its former name of Trichur, is the third largest urban agglomeration in Kerala after Kochi and Calicut and is famous for the Thrissur Pooram festival. The city is built around a 65-acre hillock called the Thekkinkadu Maidan which seats the Vadakkumnathan temple. Thrissur was once the capital of the Kingdom of Cochin and is known as the cultural capital of Kerala the because of its cultural, spiritual and religious leanings throughout history. The name Thrissur is a shortened form of the Tamil/Malayalam word Thiru-Shiva-Per-Ur which literally translates to A Big City or Town with the three places of worship of the Lord Shiva. The name owes itself to the most prominent feature of the city, that is the Vadakkumnathan Temple, which has Shiva as its presiding deity. Alternately, Thri-Shiva-Perur means the place with three Shiva temples which are said to be the Vadakkumnathan Temple, Kottapuram Shiva temple and the Poonkunnam Siva Temple. Thrissur was known by its anglicised name Trichur until 1990, when the government decided to replace it with its Malayalam name. Thrissur was also known as Vrishabhadripuram or the Kailasa of the South in ancient days.

Athirapally Falls: Located 60 km from Thrissur, the Athirapally Falls is a marvellous cascade of frothy waters that makes its way from the Anamudi mountains of the Western Ghats. Also known as Bahubali Waterfall, this 80 ft high and 330 ft wide fall is the largest waterfall in Kerala and is often referred to as the Niagara Falls of India. From here, the Athirapally falls flows through the verdant greenery of Vazhachal Forest toward the Arabian Sea, creating a spectacular vista of scintillating water, emerald jungles and azure sky. Reaching Athirapally, you are greeted with the sight of charming green Sholayar Peaks peering over the rushing gush of the falls. Bird lovers have to visit this place, for it is the only place in the Western Ghats where four endangered Hornbill species are seen. There is a pool above the falls where you can relax and unwind. To get a view of the waterfall, one needs to get down from the mountain for about 100 meters. Another interesting fact to note is that the fall joins forces with the Chalakkudy river before reaching its final destination into the sea. The falls are open from 8 am to 6 pm and have an entry fee of INR 15 per person for adults.

Vazhachal Falls: A popular picnic spot, the Vazhachal Falls place is located at a distance of 60 km from Thrissur city and 5 km from Athirapilly Falls. The falls have dense forests of the Sholayar ranges surrounding it with trees with shades and sitting arrangements built around it. During its course on rocky terrain, the river Chalakkudy gives out in three branches, which resume its flow surrounding the small islands formed by the riparian forests. These three branches gather momentum on its downward course and plummet to the rocky bed of River Chalakkudy to re-unite. The best time to visit the falls is between September and February.

Marottichal Waterfalls: Home to two beautiful waterfalls, Olakkayam and Ilanjippara, the serene Marottichal Waterfalls is located 22 km away from the town of Thrissur. The Olakkayam and Ilanjippara Waterfalls are not highly explored making them one of the finest spots for spending some time alone surrounded by nature away from the noise and the routine of the city life. You can swim and bathe in the middle of a green environment and get a refreshing as well as relaxed feeling after an adventurous trek. After walking for about 4 km from Olakkayam Waterfall, one comes across the Ilanjippara Waterfall which showcases its virgin beauty. The place offers some breathtaking views of the dense forest and from both these waterfalls, one gets to witness the beauty of nature around at its best with the waters falling from the cluster of rocks into the gorge below. A herd of elephants come down to the Ilanjippara Waterfall in the summer season which is why it is advisable to go there in groups to avoid any dangerous mishaps. The presence of the waterfall inside the forest gives it a surreal view. Visitors can make a 4-hour trek to reach the top of the hill with numerous streams of water on the way there. At the top end, there is a tall waterfall at about 2 km walking distance from the Marottichal bus stop.

Peechi Dam: The main irrigation project and at a distance of 23 km from Thrissur, the Peechi Dam is spread across an area of 3200 acres. When it was completely built in 1957, it could irrigate up to 17555 Ha of land present in Mukundapuram, Thrissur, Thalappally and Chavakkad Taluk. Peechi Dam also supplies drinking water to the town of Thrissur. It is a local picnic spot and is famous for the boating facilities offered here. Constructed across the Manali River, the dam is close to the Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary which is worth paying a visit. The sanctuary was built in 1958 and covers an area of 125 square km. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Ponmudi with a height of about 923 m is the highest peak in the sanctuary and experiences an average rainfall of about 3000 mm. The dam is open between 8 am and 6:30 pm.

Chimmini Dam: Also known as the Chimmony Dam, the Chimmini Dam, is located near a village named Echippara. It is constructed across the River Chimoni which is a tributary of the Karuvannur River. The reservoir along with the Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary is surrounded by hills of the Southern Western Ghats making the area appear natural and scenic. Construction for the dam started in 1984 but was made fully functional and dedicated to the nation in 1996. The dam is also a very famous tourist spot apart from providing the water for irrigation the dam offers recreational activities including trekking and boating through the Chimmony Wildlife Sanctuary. The Chimmony Reservoir, which is an artificial lake is created by the dam, is spread over an area of 10 sq kms with a depth of 20 meters on an average. There are numerous rubber plantations in the valley which have now been replaced by the tropical rainforests of the region. No canals have been constructed as a part of this irrigation project. Although open 24 hours a day, it is advisable to visit the dam during the daytime between 6 am to 6 pm.

Thumboormuzhi Garden: Nestled in the Chalakkudy River glade while going towards the Athirappalli Waterfalls the Thumboormuzhi Dam and Garden is situated in a mystic forest patch and because this place is lesser known, it makes for a lovely stop in your hectic day. Thumboormuzhi has almost everything to spice up your holidays – the dam, a butterfly garden, hanging bridge, and children’s park. The park has around 148 species of butterflies which appear even more beautiful if you visit the place early morning. The biggest butterflies visit the park during the monsoon season and some of the commonly observed species of butterflies in the park include the lemon butterfly, common rose, southern birdwing, dark blue tiger, and light blue tiger. To feed these butterflies, some of the plants grown in the region are Pagoda flower, flame or fire lily, Mexican heather, Heliotropium etc. The park also provides a river view, a view of the virgin forest, a beautiful garden, and a children’s park. Some facilities provided to the tourists include a bathing ghat, washrooms, parking spaces, washrooms, and a DTPC restaurant to sit and relax. The garden is open between 9 am and 5 pm and adults need to pay INR 15, children INR 5 to enter while camera fees are INR 25.

Punnathur Kotta: Sprawling over 11.5 acres of land and surrounded by green foliage all around, the exquisite Punnathur Kotta is the best example of why Kerala is known as the Land of Elephants. The jumbo elephants are the prime attractions of the place with around 60 of them kept here and taken care of. The male elephants in the group are trained for numerous religious proceedings that take place throughout the year, and if you are lucky, you might also be able to see them getting trained. The two significant rituals which are celebrated in the sanctuary every year include the Gajapooja which involves worshipping elephants and Anayottu which involves feeding elephants. On all the other usual days, the tourists can observe the elephants simply gazing in the surrounding lush green gardens. Another attraction of this sanctuary is a 500-years old palace built by the local rulers known as Punnathur Raja’s. The palace follows a traditional style of architecture of Kerala known as Nalukettu which is a design that is according to the climatic and geographical factors of the state. The palace comprises of a rectangular building with a sloping roof, a central courtyard which is open from the top and wooden carvings. The sanctuary is open between 8:30 am and 6 pm and entry fee is INR 10 per person with camera fee being INR 25.

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Snehatheeram Beach: A trip to Thrissur is incomplete without visiting the super scenic Snehatheeram Beach. At the beach, the sun, sand and the Arabian Sea all come together in perfect harmony and descend on the beach right in the middle of the coastline. It is when one sets foot on its coast that they realize the reason the beach is known as Snehatheeram meaning love shore. Situated at a distance of 30 kms from the town, it is perfect for everyone.

Vadakummnathan temple: With a collection of beautiful Mural paintings, some of which are more than 400 years old, this gigantic 1000 year old temple and historical structure is famous for the Nataraja Mural near the main gate. To date, the structure displays its original colors without much preservation. The shrine of Vadakkumnathan is also situated there, which is apparently covered completely under ghee for centuries, without any incidence of melting. The shrines of Mahavishnu and Shankaranarayan are also located in the temple. It features one of the largest dance halls, called the Koothambalam which depict unique Kerala architecture where it hosts traditional performances called Nangyar Koothu. Just outside the temple complex are situated the Thiruvambadi Krishna Temple and Paramekkavu Devi Temple, which are considered to be the sister temples of Vadakummnathan. This Temple is strictly open to Hindus with non-Hindus not allowed inside, but can stand outside and look at the photos from there. The temple is open from 3 to 10:30 am and then again between 4 to 8:30 pm.

Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple: Dedicated to the Lord Guruvayurappan, the four-armed form of Lord Vishnu, the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple is located in the town of Guruvayur and is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus in Kerala and is often referred to as Bhuloka Vaikunta or the Holy Abode of Vishnu on Earth. The central icon is a four-armed standing Vishnu carrying the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarshana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki, and a lotus with a Holy basil garland. This image represents the majestic form of Vishnu as revealed to Krishna’s parents Vasudeva and Devaki around the time of Krishna’s birth. Worship proceeds according to routines laid down by Adi Shankara and later written formally in the Tantric way, the inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India, by Chennas Narayanan Nambudiri who was born in 1427. The Chennas Nambudiris are the hereditary tantris or high priests of the Guruvayur Temple. The temple is managed by the Guruvayur Devaswom under the control of the Government of Kerala. The main festivals of this temple are the 10-day festival in the Malayalam month of Kumbham starting with flag hoisting on Pooyam star, Sri Krishna Janmashtami which is the birthday of Lord Krishna in the month of Chingam, Ekadasi in the shukla paksha which is the 11th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Vrischikam, popularly called as Guruvayur Ekadasi and Vishu on the first day of the month of Medam, once a harvest festival. The temple’s sub-deities are Ganapathi, Ayyappan and Bhagavathi, and there are two sub-temples each, one for Ganapathi and the other for Nagadevata nearby the temple.

Thiruvambadi Krishna Temple: Various folklores and myths are associated with Thiruvambadi Krishna Temple. This ancient temple is thus serves as an important pilgrimage centre with Lord Krishna as the presiding deity.

Paramekavu Bhagavathy Temple: One of the biggest Bhagavathy temples in Kerala, the Paramekavu Bhagavathy Temple plays a major role in the Thrissur Pooram. The temple is enshrined with the deity of Goddess Durga and is flocked by devotees throughout the year.

Thriprayar Temple: An ancient temple, the Triprayar Sri Rama Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and is situated in Triprayar. The prime deity worshipped in the temple is popularly known as Triprayarappan or Triprayar Thevar. The idol of Lord Rama can be seen here holding a conch, a disc, a garland, and a bow with his four arms. As per legends, it is believed that Lord Krishna worshipped the idol of Lord Rama. After the swargarohana of Lord Krishna, this idol was submerged in the sea and was later discovered by some fishermen in the sea near the Chettuva region of Kerala. This idol was then installed in a temple which was constructed at Triprayar by its local ruler – Vakkayil Kaimal. This temple also forms a part of the very famous Nalambala Darshana Yatra. The Thrirayar Temple is very rich in wood carvings and comprises of the Namaskara Mandapam facing the circular sanctum known as srikovil which has 24 panels of wood carvings and numerous ancient murals. There are several representations of the scenes from Ramayana displayed in the circular sanctum in the form of sculptures. The temple is famous for the fact that it frees people from the evil spirits by making offerings to please Thriprayarappan. Festivals celebrated here include Pooram and Ekadasi which fall in March-April and November-December respectively every year. Lord Ayyappa is taken out in procession with 21 elephants participating during the Ekadasi Festival in which people from all over the country become a part of the celebration. The temple is open from 3 am to 12 noon and then again from 4:30 to 8:30 pm.

Thiruvanchikulam Temple: One of the major Shiva Temples situated in Kerala, the Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple is more than 2000 years old. This temple is believed to have been constructed by a legendary Chera King known as Cheraman Perumal. The temple is known for the depiction of Lord Shiva, the presiding deity in various forms and also for other minor shrines dedicated to other Gods and Goddesses. The Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple has been given the oldest reference in the history of the ancient Tamil Sangam literature which clearly shows just how old the temple really is. Being one of the oldest Shiva Temples in South India, the Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple is where Lord Shiva is believed to reside with his entire family. One of the main attractions of the temple is a Namaskara Mandapam with 16 pillars that are constructed in front of the Sreekovil. There are well-stored ancient murals here along with wood carvings and sculptures worth seeing. Various Palliyara Poojas are held in the temple before it closes down on full moon nights which are attended by millions of devotees. The temple is open between 5 and 11 am and then again from 5 to 8 pm.

Peruvanam Temple: Located in Peruvanam, the Peruvanam Mahadeva Temple is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The opulent temple comprises of two shrines namely Irattayappan Temple in the North and Maadathilappan Temple in the South of the main temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The dual Shivalinga is the unique feature of the Irattayappan Temple which is the reason why its prime deity is also known as Irattayappan denoting the duality. The Madathilappan Temple’s sanctum is considered to be the tallest one in South India. One of the most famous festivals which are celebrated in the temple is the Peruvanam Pooram. The Archaeological Survey of India has been protecting the temple since 1982. As per legends, after Saint Parashurama reclaimed Kerala from the sea, 64 villages were set up by him out of which Peruvanam Gramam was the most important one. Pooru Vanam, who was the son of the King of Hasthinapura Yayathy, is believed to have created the temple. It is also thought that while a Shivalinga was being transported after receiving it at a lake near Badrinath, it got stuck on the branch of a tree after which the Madathilappan Temple, which stands today, was built at that spot. The temple which sprawls over 7 acres of land and is surrounded by a compound wall follows the Kerala style of architecture. The sanctum sanctorum follows a square structure which is rarely seen in Indian temples. Also, the inner courtyard can be reached from two sides, i.e. east and west while the main entrance lies on the east. The Irattayappan shrine has been built on a circular base. Also, the Matatthilappan Temple is situated on the south and consists of three stories. The temple is open from 5 to 10:30 am and then from 5 to 7:30 pm.

Koodalmanikyam Temple: Lush green trees on one side and beautiful temple ponds on the other, the Koodalmanikyam Temple is one of the most famous temples of Kerala which was built before the 15th century. Dedicated to Lord Bharatha, who was the brother of Lord Rama, this temple is an architectural wonder belonging to the ancient world with fresco paintings on the wall and four massive ponds in the courtyard. The temple consists of an outstanding gateway which depicts the ancient era in which it was built. The unique feature of this temple is that there is only one deity here known as Dhanwanthara Moorthy or Lord Bharatha who is well-known for his ability to cure even the most dangerous diseases of his faithful devotees. The Brinhal Nivedyam is provided to the devotees by the temple after every prayer since it is believed to be very useful to cure stomachaches. All the other temples organise around five Poojas and three Seevelis in Kerala. However, in Koodalmanikyam Temple, only three Poojas and Seevelis are conducted during the arattu festival that is held every year. No other flower except the Lotus, Chethi, and Tulasi is offered to the deity inside. The temple is open between 3 to 11:30 am in the morning and then from 5 to 8:15 pm in the evening.

Basilica of Our Lady of Dolores: With murals on its walls and ceilings, this 1875-built Roman Catholic Minor Basilica has the largest church interior in South India. It is adorned with 140 ft long steeple, which is visible from anywhere in the town. The chapel has 15 altars and boasts of neo Gothic spires. It is locally famous by the name of Puthen Palli.

St. Thomas Syro Malabar Church: Established in 52 AD by St. Thomas and situated in Palayur, the St Thomas Church is the oldest one in India and one amongst the seven that were founded by St. Thomas the Apostle. Some improvements were made to its surroundings during the 17th century without abandoning the originality of the place. However, after the development was completed, the old wooden structure was agreed to be knocked down by the local people. The original altar which was sanctified by St. Thomas is still present at the site. Since the church was built including an ancient Hindu temple which was abandoned, it follows a fusion of the Hindu architectural style and the Persian Church plan with the roof rising above the nave. Its entrance also resembles a Hindu Mandapa. The building was re-established in the 18th century after Tipu Sultan invaded Kerala and the church was wrecked by fire. The architectural significance and the history that the church boasts is enough to make one want to witness the place. The church is open from 8 am to 8 pm.

Bible Tower: Being the tallest church tower in Asia which can be seen from anywhere in the town, the Bible Tower has a height of around 260 feet behind two towers with a height of 140 feet each. Inaugurated on 7th January 2007, the the tower was dedicated for world peace. The building has been adorned with a lit red cross on the top which is proudly symbolic of the presence of the Roman Catholic Church in the city. The childhood of Jesus Christ has been exquisitely carved in wood and his healing being displayed in stained glass. Attractive paintings of apostles in terra cotta, special oil paintings which show the sufferings of Jesus Christ and miracles of Christ demonstrated in brass are enough to captivate the visitors. The church is closed on Mondays and on Tuesdays to Fridays it is open from 10 am to 6 pm while it is open from 10 am to 7:30 pm during the weekends. The church is closed daily for lunch from 1 to 2 pm.

Cheraman Juma Mosque: The first and oldest mosque built in India, the Cheraman Juma Masjid is situated in the Methala village. It is also the second oldest mosque where Jumu’ah prayers are offered and was built in 629 AD by Malik Ibn Dinar. It has a distinctive feature which differentiates it from the rest of the mosques being that it faces westwards while all the other mosques face towards the east. The mosque follows the Hindu architectural style and has a lamp which is believed to be a 1000 years old but still burns. Devotees from all over the world bring oil as an offering to the lamp. People belonging to other religions as well are allowed inside to offer prayers. There is white marble inside which is believed to have been brought from Mecca. A lot of festivals are celebrated in the mosque including the Hindu festival known as Vijaya Dasmi, Ramadan, and Bakra-Eid. The mosque is open from 5:30 am to 7 pm.

Shakthan Thampuran Palace: The royal residence of the king of Cochin, the Shakthan Thampuran Palace is popularly known as Vadakkekara Palace. Constructed in 1795, it dates back to the time of the King of Cochin named Rama Varma Shakthan Thampuran, a a very generous ruler whose reign was known as the Golden Age of Kochi. The beautiful palace with an amalgamation of Kerela and Dutch style of architecture is worth visiting. The striking feature of this palace is that it consists of a shrine for the God of serpents known as Serpent Grove or Sarpakaavu. Numerous species of flora and fauna can be spotted too in the heritage garden present inside the premises. If one can seek prior permission, they can easily spend a family picnic in the vast and stunning lawns of the palace. The Shakthan Thampuran Palace comes under the control of the archaeological department of the state and was converted into a museum in 2005. The museum consists of various unique bronze and granite sculptures, coins, inscription plates, utensils used by the royals and currency used in the Kochi dynasty. Various antiques belonging to the stone age are also on display. The palace is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and is closed on Mondays. Entry fees are INR 20 for adults and INR 5 for children between the ages of 5 to 12. Camera fees are INR 50 while video camera fees are INR 25.

Thrissur Zoo: Formerly known as the Trichur Zoo, Thrissur Zoo and the State Museum was opened in 1885 and covers an area of approximately 13.5 acres. The zoo houses a wide variety of animals, reptiles, and birds. Besides the extensive variety of fauna, the zoo has many other attractions to fascinate you. There is a Zoological Garden, Botanical Garden, a Natural History Museum and an Art Museum, showcasing the socio-cultural heritage of the region. The Art Museum located in Thrissur Zoo has an exquisite collection of wood-carvings, metal sculptures, Kathakali figures, ancient jewellery and a wonderful collection of traditional Kerala lamps. It also has some historical items like swords, jewellery, rocks, stuffed butterflies, etc. Some of the animals found here are tigers, lions, deer, sloth bears, monkeys, hippopotamus, camels, pink flamingos, mithun of the north-eastern hills, and lion-tailed macaques. There is a special building within the zoo compound which is an abode for snakes alone. It has a reptilian collection of King Cobras, Cobras, Python, Kraits, Vipers and Rat Snakes. The zoo is open from 9 am to 5:15 pm and entry fees are INR 6 for adults and INR 4 for children.

Kerala Kalamandalam: Situated in the village of Cheruthuruthy in Chelakkara on the banks of the Bharathapuzha River, the Kerala Kalamandalam is a Deemed University of Arts and Culture in Kerala. Established as a major centre for revival and uplifting of traditional performing art forms, especially those with their roots in South India. Visitors can not only look around the place and take in its ethereal natural and man-made beauty but also converse with the masters and students and take snapshots of all the lovely memories. It is not allowed to strike up a conversation with a practising or performing student as it is considered as an insult to the art form. However, the staff will guide you along every detail of the culture you want to know. The institute is devoted towards the preservation of classical Indian dance forms like Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Kudiyattam, Thullal, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, and Nangiar Koothu, besides the traditional orchestra called Panchavadyam and instruments like Chenda, Maddalam, Mridangam and Mizhavu. It was established with a vision in mind of the founders that the institution will bring forth and uphold over the time the values these forms of art. It is open from 9 am to 1 pm and Indians pay an entry fee of INR 1000 while foreigners pay INR 1292.

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Archeological & Art Museum: Located in the heart of Thrissur, the Archeological & Art Museum houses a huge and valuable collection of mural and relics from Kerala.

Appan Thampuran Smarakam: Now a cultural museum, the Appan Thampuran Smarakam was established in the year 1976 by Sri. Ramavarma Appanthampuran. Situated at Ayyanthole, the place is famous for its amazing collection of journals, magazines and books etc. It is mainly a cultural and literary museum set up at the Kumarapuram Palace.

Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda Museum: Situated in Thaikkattussery near Ollur, the Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda Museum is one of its kind in Kerala. Showcasing a dioramic representation of the traditional growth that Ayurveda has witnessed over the years and the work that has been put in by the Acharyas towards the evolution of science over the years, the museum is a perfect place for all the people who have interest in this field of study. The museum provides a captivating journey to the tourists beginning from the Vedic era during which Ayurveda was discovered through the development eras of Samhita and Samgraha and then finally to the contemporary period with the help of scriptures, pictures, and sculptures. The museum comprises three blocks namely Acharya Gruham, the main museum complex, and a digital theatre which covers an area of 600 sq ft. The Acharya Gruham is an ancient heritage structure which is 80 years old and is kept as a consulting room for E T Neelakandan Mooss. Sculptures of the great Acharyas are depicted in the complex along with their contribution to the development of Ayurveda. A diorama of the traditional procedures that are practised in Ayurveda along with a picture gallery and the collection of 300 medicinal plants provide an alluring experience to all the visitors. The huge library is another highlight which shows the old manuscripts of Ashtavaidyas and other literature and scriptures on Ayurveda. For audio-visual shows and presentations on Ayurveda, a digital theatre too has been designed with a collection of CDs related to Ayurveda kept in the digital library. There are four guides along with a warden who have been employed to provide service to visitors. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm and entry fees are INR 50. Students with a valid ID pay INR 20 and teachers accompanying students enter free.

As we move forward southwards, our next destination is Ernakulam and Kochi.

Situated in the central part of the state, spanning an area of about 3,000 sq km, Ernakulam is home to over 9% of Kerala’s population and includes Kochi city, which is known as the commercial capital of Kerala and the largest metropolitan region of the state, Greater Cochin. The district is famous for its ancient temples, churches, and mosques. Ernakulam district is called the financial, industrial and commercial capital of Kerala and contributes around 60% of the annual state revenue. It is the third most populous district in Kerala, after Malappuram and Thiruvananthapuram and also hosts the highest number of international and domestic tourists for the state. The name Ernakulam is derived from Erayanarkulam which in Tamil and Malayalam means the abode of Lord Shiva. Ernakulam was also known as “Rishinagakulam” in ancient times. From ancient times Ernakulam has played a part in the political history of south India with Jews, Syrians, Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and Portuguese seafarers who followed the sea route to the Kingdom of Cochin and left their impressions in the town. In 1896, the Maharaja of Cochin initiated local administration by forming a town council in Ernakulam. Initially, Ernakulam district’s headquarters was at Ernakulam, which gave the district its name but later shifted to Kakkanad. In 1998, Kuttampuzha village was added to the district from Idukki district following which the district got a political boundary with neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. Currently there’s no interstate road that is connecting the district with the neighbouring state through this border.

The Museum of Mattancherry:  Popularly known as Dutch Palace, the Museum of Mattancherry is located in Palace Road and built by the Portuguese as early as 1557. It is said that back in the days, this cheri or street, was lined with mutton butchers, and so it ended up being called Muttoncherry which over the years evolved into Mattancherry. Today the place which has the style and architecture that resembles a typical traditional Kerala house with four individual wings and a patio in between. exhibits centuries-old architectures and various social and cultural imprints left behind by foreigners. Declared as a heritage site by the government, Mattancherry has been an inspiration to historians, film-makers, travellers and artistes alike. Like every Kerala house, Mattancherry palace also has a courtyard in the centre with a a beautiful temple of Bhagavati, the protective deity of Kochi. There are two other temples of Shiva and Krishna inside the palace. Also, the collection of frescos and paintings covering a large portion of the palace walls is worth seeing. Take in the beauty of its famous sprawling gardens and manicured lawns. The palace is open from 10 am to 5 pm and closed for lunch between 1 to 2 pm for lunch. The Palace is closed on every Friday and entry fee is INR 2 per person.

Pallipuram Fort: Built by the Portuguese in 1503, the Pallipuram Fort is the oldest existing European monument in India. The highlight of the hexagonal fort which is made of wood, laterite and mortar is its architecture. Currently, this fort is a protected monument of the Kerala State Department of Archaeology. The fort has no entry fees and is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day.

Hill Palace: A prominent Heritage museum, which exhibits countless number of archaeological relics and belongings of the Maharaja of Kochi, the Hill Palace was built in 1865 and comprises forty-nine buildings with enchanting gardens and a children’s park. The beautiful gardens and refreshing outer facade of the museum are added as a bonus, besides the real knowledge and artifacts huddled inside the buildings. The place is known for offering the best experience of Cochin sightseeing. Along with a modern-day art gallery, other popular objects worth seeing are the Kudakkallu or tombstone, the Thoppikkallu or the hood stone, granite & laterite memorials, rock-cut armaments of the Stone Age, wooden temple replicas, and plaster cast prototypes of objects of Mohenjodaro and Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilisation. The museum is closed on Mondays and on other days is open from 9 am to 12 noon and then again from 2 to 4:30 pm. The adjoining children’s park is open till 6 pm daily and entry fees are INR 30 per person.

David Hall Art Gallery: A Dutch bungalow near the Dutch cemetery in Fort Kochi which got renovated to become a major attraction for art lovers, the David Hall Art Gallery exhibits works by prominent and local artists. There is a cosy garden restaurant which serves a variety of cakes and snacks, however the café is known for its fresh and crispy pizzas.

Folklore Museum: A three storied complex that showcases cultural exhibits and tribal artefacts, the Folklore Museum’s design was inspired by Malabar architecture. It displays cultural exhibits and folk-tribal objects of the state. The museum displays traditional Kathakali masks, costumes, sculptures, musical instruments, ornaments, and utensils which belong to the historic stone age. Do not miss the manichitrathazhu, a traditional ornate door lock of Kerala while you enter the building. The museum is open from 9:30 am  to 7 pm daily and has an entry fee of INR 100 per person.

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Indo-Portuguese Museum: An an amalgamation of Indian and Portuguese culture and architecture, the Indo-Portuguese Museum is located in the Fort Kochi area and was built by former Bishop of the city, Joseph Urethra. The museum is divided into 5 wings exhibiting Altar of Furniture, Treasure, Procession, Civil Life and Cathedral. The museum also houses some prized artifacts like a Processional Cross made of silver and wood, Indo-Portuguese Monstrance, and Coat of Arms of the Francis. Open from 10 am to 5 pm, the museum is closed every Monday and on public holidays. The entry fee is INR 10 for Indians and INR 25 for foreigners. However, if you happen to visit on the first Thursday of the month, entry is free.

Museum of Kerala History: One of the oldest history and art museums in Kochi and founded by Mr. Madhavan Nayar who is a philanthropist, the Musuem of Kerala History has has preserved the history of Kerala in the most artistic way with various statues and a doll museum which has around 150 kind of dolls in various styles. Apart from this, the museum also showcases more than 230 paintings in its art gallery by famous artists like Raja Ravi Verma, MF Hussain and several international painters. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm with an entry fee of INR 50 per adult and INR 20 per child.

Parikshith Thampuran Museum: Situated on the Durbar Hall Road in Ernakulam, the Parikshith Thampuran Museum is also called as Durbar Hall Art Gallery. The museum has a collection of articles such as oil paintings, sculptures, old coins and Mughal paintings. The main attraction of the building is its beautiful architecture. The museum is open from 9:30 am to 12 noon and then again between 3 to 5 pm and is closed on Mondays. There is no entry fee.

Vypeen Island: A short and beautiful ferry ride from the city will take to the serene island of Vypeen which is dotted with beaches, backwaters and an array of restaurants and hotels. A desktop worthy scenery away from the bustling environment is what makes Vypeen island a must visit place while in Ernakulam.

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Willingdon Island : India’s largest island, Willingdon island is named after Lord Willingdon, the British Viceroy of India. The beautiful island is home to some hotels and also provides various links between Kochi port and other national and international ports. This island also has a museum and natural habitat to explore. The island is open from 5 am to 10 pm daily.

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Vallarpadam: A tranquil island that s not crowded, the main attraction in Vallarpadam is the  beautiful church called the National Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom. The stunning white structure will leave you in awe and the serenity inside the church will give you the much-needed break you require from your busy life.

Kuzhupilly Beach: A hidden corner of Kochi, the Kuzhupilly Beach is located in a remote area and is a perfect place for some me-time. The beach is lined with rocks and has a calm atmosphere. With a playground just next to the beach, this is also a great picnic spot for families.

Cherai Beach: Located on the north end of Vypeen island, Cherai beach is a 15 km stretch of wild and rugged beauty dotted with lush green swaying coconut plantations. Although not overwhelmed by hotels or major restaurants, the beach is dotted with small shacks selling local snacks like pakoras and chips. Stunning lagoons, wide paddy fields and coconut grooves adorn the road to the beach. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to spot dancing dolphins at the beach. Though the beach is open 24/7, it is recommended to refrain from entering the water during high tides.

Marine Drive: A must visit place while in Kochi, the Marine Drive is one of the most beautiful and romantic places to see in Kochi. Make sure you are here during sunset to watch the spectacular sun go down.

Fort Kochi Beach : A local favourite, Fort Kochi Beach is the place when you want to take a stroll in the on the beach with the sun spreading out warm tones, the birds chirping and the gentle wind swaying. This is a favourite dating spot for couples so you can probably find romantic couples in various nooks and corners of the beach.

Puthuvype Beach: Located just 13 kms from the city centre, the Puthuvype Beach is a less explored beache in Kochi. The gorgeous sunset at the beach and long walks throughout the day are the highlight here. The lighthouse located nearby is one of the tallest in India and provides visitors with a panoramic view of the scenic coast. Don’t miss the stunning sunset from the beach. Though the beach is open throughout the day, entry to the lighthouse is only between 3 to 5 pm.

Chinese Fishing Nets: Locally known as Cheena Wala, the Chinese fishing nets are quite popular sight in the beaches of Kochi. These nets are fixed at a particular location from the shore which are used through mechanical contrivance from across a distance of 20m across. This unique fishing style was introduced in the 14th century by the chinese traders.

Gowreeswara Temple Cherai: Locally known as Malyala Palani and Muruga Temple, the Gowreeswara Temple Cherai located in the Cherai village The main deity worshipped here is Lord Subrahmanyan, though the temple is named is after Lord Gowreeswara, Lord Subrahmanyan’s father. This is the only temple in India with the Chaturmukha Kovil, which is a Dravidian architecture style with doors on all four sides. If you happen to visit in the last two weeks of January and first two weeks of February, watch out for caparisoned elephant march, which is a part of the Cherai Gowreeswara Temple Festival. The temple is open from 3:30 am to 11:30 am and then again from 4 to 8 pm on every day of the week.

Shiva Temple: Located in downtown Cochin, the Shiva temple is also known as the Ernakulathappan Temple. It is one of the seven royal temples of Kochi Maharaja and is considered as the one which protects the entire city. The significance of this temple is that it’s the only pilgrimage in South India where the idol of the deity is facing towards the west.Observe and marvel at the traditional temple structure that reflects the Malabar heritage, especially the finely sculptured walls, sanctum complex, and delicately decorated gates or gopuram. The temple is open from 3:30 am to 8 pm daily.

Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple: One of the most visited temple located in the south, the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple is a highly revered Hindu temple. This 1500 year old temple holds great importance amongst the locals as they worship the goddess Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Amman and Keezhu Kavu Bhadrakali Amman which are considered as the healing goddesses. It is believed that continuous worship of these goddesses heals life threatening diseases. The temple is open from 4 am to 8:45 pm daily.

Thrikkakara Temple: A must visit during the Onam festival, the Thrikkakara Temple is one of the few Hindu temples in India dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar. The temple is around two millennia old and is also listed as one of the 108 Divya Desams or divine places. The temple complex, which is enclosed in a large area with picturesque surroundings, holds the main sanctum dedicated to Lord Vamana. The sanctum sanctorum of the main shrine houses the idol of Vishnu. The idol is in the form of Lord Vamana preparing to place his foot on the Brahmin Asura King Mahabali. Lord Parashurama is said to have established the temple which also houses records containing the earliest mention of the celebration of the Onam festival dating to 861 Common Era. The temple is under the administration of the Travancore Devaswom Board.

Santa Cruz Basilica: Deemed as one of the oldest cathedrals in India and one of the finest architectural marvels, the Santa Cruz Basilica was built originally by the Portuguese and elevated to a Cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558, but was spared by the Dutch conquerors who destroyed many Catholic buildings. Later the British demolished the structure and João Gomes Ferreira  commissioned a new building in 1887. Consecrated in 1905, Santa Cruz was proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984. The spectacular historical painting inscribed on the walls of the building is the unique feature of this cathedral. The basilica is open from 7 am to 6:30 pm, Mondays to Saturdays and from 8 am to 6:30 pm on Sundays.

St. Francis Church: One of the oldest churches in India, the St Francis Church was built by the Europeans and is well-known for its beautiful surroundings, serene environment, and stunning design. Don’t miss the extraordinary exterior structure with a stepped pinnacle on two sides and the interior with pinnacle. The chancel roof along with the baptism platform, book rests, offering and confessional stage are worth seeing. All these reflect the grandeur and charisma of the old-world and its traditions. The church is open from 7 am to 6:30 pm on all days, except Sundays when it is open from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm.

Paradesi Synagogue: Built in 1568, the Paradesi synagogue or the Jewish synagogue is the oldest amongst all commonwealth countries. Located in the Jew Town area of Cochin and built by Cochin Jewish group or Malabar Yehudan people, the Paradesi synagogue houses very rare antiques like a carved teak ark with four scrolls of the Torah which are the first five books of the Old Testament, silver and gold crowns, chandeliers made of Belgian glass, century old copper plates, hand-woven oriental carpet and a clock tower. The synagogue is open from 10 am to 12 noon and again between 3 to 5 pm daily.

Kodanad Elephant Training Centre: Kodanad is a relatively small riverside village and home to an elephant training center where the adult elephants are washed and trained. This can be a day trip from Kochi and a part of this unique experience is to watch the elephants early in the morning rolling and playing in the water. Make sure you are there when the baby elephants are washed and trained and is a super fun experience. The centre is closed on Mondays and open from 8 am to 5 pm on Tuesdays to Sundays with an entry fee of INR 10 for Indians and INR 25 for foreigners. There is an INR 25 fee for using cameras in the centre.

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Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary: One of the first bird sanctuaries in Kerala and undeniably a haven for nature enthusiasts, Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary in the words of Salim Ali, a world famous ornithologist, is the richest bird sanctuary in India since it is home to hundreds of different endangered species of migratory birds. This thick deciduous forest has plantations of mahogany, teak, rosewood and rubber running through it. Make sure to bring along a pair of binoculars to get a glimpse of the birdlife. The best time to visit would be between November and March.

Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary: This biosphere reserve located at Central Cochin is a natural habitat to many endangered and regular species of local and migratory birds, as well as mangrove vegetation. The sanctuary encircles a tidal lake which is connected to the backwaters and one of the imperative places for sightseeing in Cochin, especially for nature lovers. It is also home to several species of fishes. Consider yourself lucky if you happen to spot redshank, greenshank, brahminy kite, white-breasted water hen and marsh sandpiper. Open from 9 am to 6 pm daily, there is no entry fee to the sanctuary, but make sure to carry your own water bottles and snacks as the eateries inside are less and random.

Malayattoor: A place where land, river and mountain meet, Malayattoor is the perfect place for a day trip from Kochi or Ernakulam. The Malayattoor hill is also home to the famous Malayattoor church which is dedicated to St. Thomas who had prayed at this holy shrine according to the locals. Throughout the year many pilgrims from South India comes to visit this church and it holds a great importance for the Christians. Inside the church there is a life-size statue of the saint along with an imprint of the feet of Apostle on the rock. Mass in the church is at 6 am and 5:15 pm, Monday to Saturday and at 6, 7:30 and 9:30 am on Sunday.

Moving on, let’s explore Alappuzah next.

Also known by its former name of Alleppey, Alappuzha is considered to be the oldest planned city in this region and the lighthouse built on the coast of the city is the first of its kind along the Laccadive Sea coast. The city is situated 155 km north of Trivandrum and is described as a town with canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons, and as Lord Curzon called, the Venice of the East. The Backwaters of Alappuzha is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kerala and is also the access point for the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake, near Alappuzha, on the second Saturday of August every year. This is the most popular and competitive boat races in India. Mullackal Chirap is the major Temple Festival of Alapuzha which is held for ten days every year at end of December. Carved out of the erstwhile Kottayam and Quilon districts, Alappuzha district was formed on 17 August 1957. The name Ᾱlappuzha is a toponym, which means its name is derived from its most distinctive feature, water. Ᾱlayam means home and puzha means watercourse or river. The name refers to the network of waterways and backwaters that Alappuzha and surrounding areas.

Allapuzah Backwaters: Previously a mde of transportation, fishing and agriculture, the backwaters of Alleppey have evolved over time as a tourism hotspot. The main attraction of the backwaters is the overnight journey in the famous Kerala houseboats. These houseboats are as comfortable as any hotel room – sometimes even more luxurious, and as a bonus, you get the open deck. Sunset viewing, bird watching, village visits, stargazing, witnessing the everyday life of the farmers and fishermen along with visiting the various regions that specialise in the manufacture of certain products like toddy, coir, handicrafts, Alleppey is a handful of an experience to have. Rightfully called the Venice of the East, with its labyrinth of brackish lagoons and interconnected lakes, Alappuzha is the perfect place to plan your next holiday. While on one of the backwaters trips, do not forget to pay attention to the everyday life of the villagers and their activities down in the lower backwaters, or the variety of avian species that you will most certainly come across and don’t miss the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets you will see. If you want to see the boat races, you will have to visit during the Onam, which takes place in the beginning of August. Otherwise, October to April is a good time and avoid the summer and monsoon months.

Vembanad Lake: A lagoon in Allapuzah, the expansive Vembanad Lake or lagoon is the longest lake in the country and the largest lake in Kerala, accessible from Kottayam, Kuttanad and Kochi. Known by different names in different regions of Kerala, it is called the Kochi Lake in Kochi, the Punnamada Lake in Kuttanad and as Vembanad in Kottayam. Locals also call it Vembanad Kol or Vembanad Kayal. The entire system of Vembanad wetland expands over an area of 2000 sq km and has the districts of Ernakulam, Alappuzha and Kottayam. A narrow barrier island separates the Vembanad from the Laccadive Sea. The lake is connected with other lakes by canals running to its north and south. The islands of Perumbalam, Pallipuram and Pathiramanal, are surrounds by Lake Vembanad which is fed by River Meenachil, Pamba, Manimala, Muvattupuzha, Achenkovil and River Periyar which are the six major rivers of Kerala. The area surrounding the lake is home to a variety of flora and fauna. It is separated by a 4000 foot long man-made saltwater barrier called the Thaneermukkom. This barrier prevents the salt water from entering the low-lands of Kuttanad and divides the lake into two parts, one with fresh water from the rivers and the other with brackish water. The wetland of Vembanad creates an environment suitable for flora and fauna found in the region. Tourists frequently visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary located on the coast of the lake for an exciting bird-watching experience. With a vast expanse covered by the lake waters, boating is but an apparent activity to indulge in when visiting the lake. Staying on a houseboat is the best way to explore the lake waters.

Punnamada Lake: An extension of the Vembanad Lake, the Punnamada Lake is popular for hosting the very famous boat race called Nehru Trophy boat race. The race is held during the Onam festival and is named after India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This race, unlike the others which mark the date according to the lunar calendar, is held on the second Saturday of August each year. Snake boats are named so because of their shapes, they are elongated and can accommodate from 80 to 100 people depending on the length of the boat. The rowers are divided on either side equally, each one pulling their own oar and competing with the other boats. Each village brings their own boat to participate in this fun-filled extravaganza held in the Punnamada Lake.

Alappuzha Beach: Also known as Alleppey Beach, the Alappuzha beach, is famous for local getaways, its intrinsic beauty and a 150 years old pier which stretches into the sea. Relaxing under the palm groves and picnicking beside the beach are fantastic options available to those visiting the beach. Alleppey Beach is a host to many festivals like Sand Art festival and Alappuzha Beach Festival. In addition to the pristine beauty of Alleppey Beach, some exciting activities and attractions are present in and around this destination.

Marari Beach: Listed as one of the top five hammock beaches by the National Geographic Survey, the Marari Beach is one of the great delights of the Malabar Coast. About 11 km from the city, this beach is a hotspot for fishing activity, deriving its name from the local fishing village Mararikulam. If you visit in the month of August, you can view the Snake Boat races across the waters.

Thottapally Beach: Famed through a celebrated novel and movie Chemmeen, the Thottappally Beach is a quiet escape in the village. It an active fishing harbour that draws locals every day. The Thottappally Spillway located nearby is also quite an attraction. It helps separate the freshwater of the Thottappally Lake and the saline water at the mouth of the river that drains into the Arabian Sea. Tourists visit often for its conserved picturesque beauty and a soul-soothing experience.

Punnapra Beach: A serene getaway famous for its golden stretch of sand and pristine waters, the Punnapra Beach is an isolated beach and doesn’t get a lot of visitors. It is, therefore, preferred for tourists looking for a romantic holiday away from the chaotic city life. Ayurvedic massages on the beach are quite famous here, making it a good place to replenish one’s mind and body.

Thumpoly Beach: Another hidden Kerala gem, famous for for its scenic beauty and cleanliness , at the Thumpoly Beach you can see a number of canals make their way into the Arabian Sea through here, making it a must explore. The big blue waves crashing on the shore are quite a sight to see. You can even visit the fishing villages that surround this beach. Located at a distance of 6 kms from Alappuzha, Thumpoly is a coastal town in Kerala. With the majestic Arabian Sea on one side and a charming, quaint lake on the other, Thumpoly has been graciously blessed with golden sandy beaches, verdant green meadows and numerous canals which finally make their way to the ocean. The Thumpoly Beach is a hub for fisherfolks and the beach houses several fishing villages. In addition to that, the greenery and natural flora is home to hundreds of species of rare birds. The beaches are lined with towering palm trees, and the dainty town has a beautiful backdrop of mighty hills. Thumpoly looks like a picture-perfect haven for all you nature lovers and is a must-visit if you are in the area.

Krishnapuram Palace: A magnificient palace and museum that is located in Kayamkulam, at a distance of 47 km from Alappuzha, the Krishnapuram Palace was built during the reign of the  Travancore King, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma and is well known for its mural paintings and architecture. The palace is built in the traditional architectural style of Kerala, with a gabled roof, narrow corridors and dormer windows, and is close to the Krishnaswamy Temple at Krishnapuram. A major attraction of this place is that it houses is one of the biggest mural paintings that can be found in all of Kerala. Known as the ‘Gajendra Moksha’, this mural painting covers an area of around 53 square feet and has a rich historical value attached to it. The double-edged sword Kayamkulam Vaal can also be found here. The Krishnapuram Palace is currently maintained by the Archaeological Department of Kerala and contains a variety of exhibits that once belonged to the Palace and its former occupant. Covering an area of about 1.5 acres, the Krishnapuram Palace is truly an unrivalled marvel of construction. The stately palace follows the Vastushastra doctrine of 16 kettu or enclosures. Due to the presence of these enclosures, the palace also includes four quadrangular structures, which give way to four Nadumuttam or inner patios. A new life was breathed into this glorious palace in the 18th century when it was refurbished. The reconstructed palace consists of narrow corridors, low ceiling, dormer windows, gabled roof, meandering staircases, patios and projecting balcony windows. Laterite stones, rubble, teak, rosewood and Angili wood have gone into the construction of this lovely palace. The beauty of the structure is further accentuated by the Mangalore tiles on the roofs, while the straight, curved and spiral staircases further enhance the palace’s aesthetic appeal. A unique feature of this striking palace lies in the carpentry skills involved. Instead of metallic fixtures, the palace consists of wooden hinges and locks for doors and windows. The Krishnapuram Palace is not just a single building but is rather an entire complex that houses many other buildings, which are a combination of traditional and Western architecture. The complex also has a huge pond, which is believed to contain an underground secret escape passage. The palace is situated on the top of a small hill and is surrounded by a terraced garden with fountains, ponds and lawns. Other attractions here include the beautifully landscaped garden in the palace compound that is home to a variety of flora, and a newly erected Buddha Mandapam, which houses a recently recovered statue of Lord Buddha. The Krishnapuram Palace was recently renovated again following the scientific techniques that are prescribed for the protection of heritage buildings and continue to be a rare specimen of the Kerala style of architecture that has survived till date. The palace complex now functions as an archaeological museum and is a treasure trove of numerous ancient paintings and inscriptions. Stone and wood sculptures, copies of Mural paintings, coins, megalithic remains, stone inscriptions and other such historically and archaeologically important objects are preserved and protected in this museum. The prominent displays in the compound that are worth mentioning are the mural of Gajendra Moksham, Kayamkulam Vaal and a 10th-century statue of the Buddha. The Kayamkulam Vaal is another important exhibit that is found here. This sword is dangerous than any other martial weapon since both sides of the sword are sharpened, that is, the sword is double-edged. The museum also has a copy of the Bible in Sanskrit, ceremonial utensils and beautiful miniature figures among other artefacts. An attractive statue of one of the four antique Buddhas of the 10th century is displayed in the Buddha Mandapam or Buddha Hall. Located in the midst of a well-manicured and tended garden, the statue is surrounded by many flowering plants. Scholars believe that this statue probably belongs to the 5th or even the 7th century, and is a pure delight to look at. The palace is closed on Mondays and on other days is open from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. Entrance fees are INR 10 for adults, INR 5 for children and camera fees are INR 25 for normal camera and INR 250 for video cameras.

Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple: A Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, the Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple is built in the traditional Kerala style architectural pattern and is famous for its delicious rice pudding prepared in sweet milk, popularly known as Pal Payasam. Also called as the ‘Dwarka of the South’, the temple is believed to have been built between the 15th and 17th centuries by the local king Chembakkassery Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan Thampuran. The main deity presiding the temple called Parthasarathi which is another name for Lord Krishna is carved out of black granite stone and carries the sacred conch in the left hand and a whip in the right. The shrine is one of the oldest in the region and the history is associated with the Guruvayur Temple located in the Thrissur district of Kerala itself. It is believed that the main idol was brought here from the Guruvayur temple during the raids of Tipu Sultan in 1789 for safekeeping, and it stayed here ever since. The temple also has a majestic collection of paintings depicting the ten avatars or the Dasavatars of Lord Vishnu which add to the all-around rich cultural ambience of the place. A musical instrument called ‘Mizhavu’ is displayed at the entrance of the temple. Besides, it houses a little pond where you can feed the fish and spend a few minutes admiring the rich heritage of the pilgrim centre. The temple holds an extremely fascinating myth behind the distribution of Paal Payasam Prasad aka the rice pudding. It is believed that once Lord Krishna appeared in the court of the then ruling King in the form of a sage and challenged him to a game of chess. The king being a chess enthusiast happily agreed and both the parties proceeded to decide the prize in case of their winning. The sage wanted a few grains of rice in case he won; the actual number of grains being decided by the number of squares on the chessboard. It was agreed upon that each proceeding square would hold the exponential number of grains of the preceding square, starting with 1 grain and going on to 2, 4, 16, 256 etc. The game began and needless to say, the sage won. The king began to give out the prize and on calculation, it was found that the number of grains as per the rules, hugely exceeding the grains in the royal granary. The sage has very wittingly used the concept of geometric progression and outsmarted the king. The final translated number of the grains equalled many trillion tons of rice. The king could not, therefore, keep up with his words and was indebted to the sage. Then the sage revealed his true identity in the form of Lord Krishna and told the king that he could repay over time by serving rice pudding i.e. paal payasam in the temple till the debt was paid off. This is how the temple got to serving paal payasam to its devotees over time. The temple is open from 3 am to 12:30 pm in the mornings and evening prayers are between 5 and 8 pm daily.

Chettikulangara Devi Temple: The main deity of the Chettikulangara Devi Temple is Sree Bhadarakali who is worshipped in 3 different forms at three different times. She is worshipped as Maha Saraswati in the morning, as Maha Lakshmi at noon and as Maha Kali or Sree Durga in the evening. It is believed that the temple is 1200 years old and there is not much evidence and theories for its existence. Devotees believe that if you pray in this temple, wishes come true. Special poojas are offered on Tuesdays and Fridays. A lamp with 1001 lighting points is lit on the first day of every month as an offering to Maha Bhadrakali. There are statues of Updevatas or Sub-deities adjacent to the temple like Yakshini, Ganapathi, Nagarajav, Balakan, Muhurthi, Naga Yakshi, Thevara Moorthy, Kannamballi bhagavathi, Rekshas and Vallyachan. The temple is open daily from 5 am till 12 noon and then again from 5 to 8 pm.

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Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple: Nestled in a forest glade near Haripad, the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple is dedicated to the snake god- Nagaraja, a form of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Flocked by pilgrims and devotees who believe in serpent worshipping, the temple is marked with over thirty thousand paintings and drawings of snakes along the path and over the trees in the surrounding grove. The unique temple is known to have umpteen snakes crawl all over the place at all times: on the steps, in the hedges, on the creepers etc. Women pray here for fertility and children and when their prayers are heard, they come here to conduct thanksgiving ceremonies and most of the times bring along more snake paintings to adorn the spot. The temple has a special turmeric paste offered to the devotees which are believed to possess curative powers. Devotees throng the place in huge numbers to avail this paste which supposedly is capable of curing skin diseases like leprosy. The temple sprawls over an area of 16 acres and is managed by a Brahmin family and is headed by a priestess, unlike other temples which is usually headed by a priest. The temple is open from 5 am till midnight daily.

Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple: Also known as the Mullakkal Bhagwati Temple, the Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple is situated on the main street of Mullakkal Theruvu in Alappuzha. Built-in the traditional Kerala style architecture, the temple is accessible to people of all faiths, religions and castes. The charming temple boasts of a quaint little pond and well-maintained premises. Graced with plenty of trees and pretty jasmine plants, the temple presents a picturesque landscape. The presiding deity being Goddess Rajeshwari, who is another avatar of Goddess Durga, the temple also hosts idols of other gods including Lord Krishna, Nagas, Ayyappa and Lord Hanuman. A big banyan tree shields the linga of Lord Shiva so devotees can pray. Several myths and stories are attached to this temple which is believed to be at least 500 years old. According to the most popular myth, the presiding idol of Mullakkal Devi was brought here by a group of exiled soldiers from Thekkumkur. Originally the idol was placed in the jasmine garden and later King Devanarayana built a shrine around it. Another story suggests that during the conquest of Tipu Sultan, a group of Brahmins got the statue of Mata Annapurneshwari from the Malabar area and placed it amidst the pool of jasmines. They later built a temple for the idol. Till 1961, the idol that adorned the shrine was of Goddess Annapurneshwari; however, a mentally unstable devotee once embraced the statue so hard that it had to be redone. Therefore, in 1962, a brand new idol of Goddess Rajeshwari was placed in the sanctum and has been there ever since. The temple is open from 4 to 10 am and then again from 5 to 8 pm.

Karumadikkuttan: Located in the village of Karumadi, around 3 kms away from Alappuzha, is the shrine of Karumadikkuttan; the name literally translates to the boy from Karumadi. Set on the banks of Punnamada lake in the backwaters, the temple majorly houses three feet high, a black granite statue of Buddha and is a venerated religious site among the Buddhists. The statue dates back to the 10th century AD and is believed to have been abandoned in the nearby stream called Karumadi Thodu from where it was later recovered in the 1930s, by Sir Robert Bristow, a British official. However, the left half of the statue was damaged and only half of the entire body could be restored. The British official made adequate efforts to preserve the religious heritage, and measures were taken to establish the spot as a pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Maintained and managed by the Kerala State government currently, the quaint village is flocked by devotees in large numbers. The shrine is open from 8 am to 6 pm every day.

St. Andrew’s Basilica Arthunkal: Considered the largest shrine of Saint Sebastian in the world, the St. Andrew’s Basilica at Arthunkal was originally constructed by the Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century and the church was rebuilt in 1584 under the priest Jacomo Fenicio who was believed to possess powers to heal body and mind, and was popularly known as Arthunkal Veluthachan which translates to fair-skinned father. Eight years after the vicar died, the shrine was renovated to face the West towards the silken white sands of the Arabian Sea. The saint was executed by the Roman emperor Diocletian for embracing Christianity. In 1647, a life-sized statue of the vicar was sculptured in Milan and was positioned at the Arthunkal church. The statue has its body pierced with arrows and has marks of blood all over, depicting the brutal execution. The interiors have been tastefully done with woodwork, and the church boasts of marvellous ancient architecture. The basilica is open from 5:30 am to 6:30 pm.

Edathua Church: Located on the banks of river Pampa, the Edathua Church also known as St. George Forane Church is dedicated to St. George. Built-in 1810, the church is believed to possess miraculous healing powers. It is said that praying at this holy site has healed many of mental disorders and other medical issues. The charming church is constructed in the style of medieval European brilliant architecture, with majestic arches and gigantic pillars. Set amidst the picturesque paddy fields, pristine backwaters and rows of enchanting coconut trees, the annual feast of the two-century-old church celebrated around the end of April and early May is very popular and the church is considered an important religious spot not only among Christians, but is also celebrated and visited by Hindus. The church is open from 6 am to 8 pm.

St. Mary’s Forane Church: The Champakulam Kalloorkadu Marth Maryam or St. Mary’s Basilica, popularly known as St. Mary’s Forane Church is an ancient Syro- Malabar church in the Archeparchy of Changanacherry. Constructed in 427 AD, the church is one of the oldest Syrian Catholic churches in India. The brilliant architecture, elaborate rock inscriptions and ancient artefacts boast about the Portuguese influence in the traditional designs and are worth a visit. Legend has it that this church was the first to have been founded by St. Thomas, the apostle himself. Situated in Champakullam, on the banks of river Pamba, the rich history, legacy and the ingenious architecture attracts a large number of tourists to the spot. The pearly white building is a wonderful amalgamation of Syrian and Portuguese designs. It is believed that this church was the reason of reconciliation between Catholics and Jacobian Syrians centuries ago; hence it is considered a rich heritage of Christianity in India. The church is open from 6 am to 6 pm.

Bay Island Driftwood Museum: Founded by Raji Punnoose, a school-teacher in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Bay Island Driftwood Museum is famous for its innovative modern art techniques used to design various kinds of root and tree-trunk sculptures. Other sculptures made of driftwood comprising of twisted tree trunks, stumps, roots etc. are also on display here. She had developed this collection shaped in the form of birds, animals, reptiles, amphibians and fishes during her teaching days. The interesting and expansive techniques of curation has helped the museum to be listed in the Limca Books of Records. The museum is open from 11:30 am to 5 pm on weekends and from 10 am to 5 pm on weekdays except Mondays when it is closed.

Revi Karunakaran Museum: A memorial built by Betty Karunakaran in the memory of her husband and one of the leading coir industrialist and businessman of Kerala, Revi Karunakaran the Revi Karunakaran Museum is a memorial museum built in 2003, and is privately owned and one of the largest of its kind. The museum has many artifacts with large Swarovski crystals in jade, ivory, porcelain, sculptures, Belgian glassworks, Murano glassworks and Tanjore paintings among others. The family is believed to have an eye for fine arts and have been collecting artefacts and exhibits for at least three generations. Initially, the depository was meant for personal use but after the death of Revi Karunakaran in 2003, Betty decided to open visits for public display. The time limit to tour the museum has been kept to an hour each per person and photography within the museum is strictly prohibited. The museum, which is closed on Mondays is open from 9 am to 2 pm on other days. Entry fees is INR 150 per person

Pathiramanal: A beautiful island in Alappuzha which was once the property of the Thaimattatil family until 1979 Pathiramanal which means sands of the night boasts of verdant wilderness, serene lakeside and a picturesque landscape. The island is covered with dense natural vegetation and offers a perfect climatic condition for regional flora and fauna to thrive. The attraction is also famous as a bird watcher’s paradise and a favourite amongst nature lovers. Sprawling over 10 acres of land, the islet is the ideal spot for bird watching expeditions as it is home to a large number of rare and endangered species. This haven of natural beauty is also believed to nurture plants which have medicinal qualities. Pathiramanal also known as Anantha Padmanabhan Thoppu, was under the private ownership of Thaimattathil family until the late seventies. It was purchased by Chevalier ACM Anthraper, from M/s Bheemji Devji Trust of Cochin. However, after the land reform acts of 1979, the island came under the government of India. Later, it came to be managed by the Tourism Department of India. Till late 70s, 14 families resided on the land but after government possession, they were relocated to the adjoining region of Muhamma panchayat. The island at present is uninhabited and only used for tourism purposes. The island is open from 6 am to 6 pm.

Pallippuram: A small village near Vembanad in Cherthala, Pallipuram is known for its white sand and settlements on three sides, hence also known as an island. There’s a bridge that provides access to the Cherthala mainland which has boats and ferries to Vaikom. Pallipuram has many glass and cement industries.

Kuttanad: A region covering a large part of Alappuzha and some of Kottayam district, Kuttanad is the heart of the backwaters of Kerala. Kuttanad is the rice bowl of Kerala, being home to lush green rice fields spread extensively, divided by dykes. Travelling through this secluded alcove of nature will give you a feel the traditional countryside life of Kerala. A special peculiarity of this place is its geography. It lies around 2 metres below the main sea level, making it the lowest altitude place in the country. In these lowlands, Kerala produces large portions of the everyday meal on reclaimed lands, split up by many small and big rivers and creeks. These streams are perfect for the tourists to sail over and soak in the absolute best the region has to offer in an hour-long cruise on a houseboat or shorter trips on canoes. These trips offer scenes and sceneries that are worth remembering as well as capturing, thus making them ideal for the nature-lovers, shutterbugs as well as the odd romantic. Kuttanad is also famous for its heavenly backwaters that break and merge into a hundred channels, thus making agriculture and tourism easy. These backwaters, flanked by the greenest patches of agriculture are a paradise for those who prefer serenity over stereotype. The best way to experience the waterways is to hop on a houseboat cruiser and drift through the calmness, taking in all the nature around you. Another feature of Kuttanad is Champakulam. It is a small hamlet located in Kuttanad, divided by the river Pamba, and both banks of the river are covered with paddy fields and Kerala’s trademark coconut trees. River Pamba is considered to be holy and is given the nickname of Dakshina Ganga, making its significance in Kerala very clear by comparing it to the Holy Ganges. The Punnamada Lake is an eastern extension of Lake Vembanad, which is the second-largest lake of India and along the shore of this lake is located a good part of Kuttanad region. As per historical records, Kuttanad was under the rule of Chera dynasty over South India. The city of Kuttanad is said to be the seat of power and administration of one of the kings of that dynasty, Cheran Chenguttavan. Around the same time, this region also used to be a famous centre of Buddhism, thus getting the name Buddhanad, which later got changed into Kuttanad, according to many. A mixture of local myth and real facts of history has given birth to many legends about Kuttanad. One of them is that the dense forests of the Kuttanad region were destroyed due to a wildfire. Burnt wooden logs and pieces were unearthed from the paddy fields for a long time until even some years ago. They might still be found somewhere which is why many places here have their names ending with ‘kari’ which means burnt charcoal. This is why Kuttanad is said to be the ancient Khandava forest mentioned in the Mahabharata, which the Pandavas visited on their exile and it was burnt down to ashes, as per the story. Another theory is that Kuttanad got its name from the words Kuttan meaning those who dig soil, as the place was dug out of the water and reclaimed for extensive agriculture.

Our next destination as we move further south is Kottayam.

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