As I started planning my travel, I started relying on my research for where to go and found it slightly ungainly to search through all the material I have to reach a specific destination. So here’s a consolidated list of all Indian states, in alphabetical order with the cities and towns next to each part which makes it easier to get to the place you are interested in.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands Part 1 – Introduction and Overview Part 2 – Port Blair Part 3 – Corbyn’s Cove Beach, Wandoor Beach, Viper Island, Ross Island, North Bay Island, Red Skin Island, Middle Andaman Island, Long Island, Baratang Island, Parrot Island, North Passage Island, Guitar Island Part 4 – Aves Island, North Andaman Island, Diglipur, Stewart Island, Ross & Smith Island, Jolly Buoy Island, Havelock Island Part 5 – Neil Island, South Andaman Island, Rutland Island, Little Andaman Island, Cinque Island, Barren Island, Narcondom Island, Kathchal Island, Campell Bay & Indira Point Part 6 – Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Chidiya Tapu, The Chidiya Tapu Biological Park, Mount Harriet National Park, Saddle Peak National Park, Campbell Bay National Park, Galathea National Park, Middle Button Island National Park, North Button Island National Park, South Button Island National Park
Andhra Pradesh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Vishakhapatnam Part 2: Araku Valley, Vizianagaram, Annavaram, Samalkot, Kakinada, Rajahmundry Part 3: Amaravathi, Vijayawada, Machilipatnam Part 4: Guntur, Chirala, Nagarjunakonda, Srisailam, Cumbum, Nellore Part 5: Kurnool, Mantralayam, Gandikota, Tadipatri, Anantapur, Puttaparthi Part 6: Lepakshi, Horsley Hills, Chittoor, Srikalahasthi, Tirupati
Arunachal Pradesh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Itanagar, Bhalukpong Part 2: Bomdila, Tawang Part 3: Ziro, Yinkiong, Mechuka, Roing, Tirap Part 4: Khonsa, Changlang, Miao, Anini, Pasighat, Aalo, Daporijo, Anjaw, Tezu
Assam Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Guwahati, Dispur Part 2: Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Goalpura, Barpeta, Nalbari, Hajo, Sualkuchi Part 3: Darrang, Mayong and Morigaon, Nagaon, Tezpur, Jorhat Part 4: Sivasagar, Majuli, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Digboi Part 5: Sadiya, Haflong, Jatinga, Diphu, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Silchar Part 6: Raimona National Park, Manas National Park, Orang National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Nameri National Park, Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Dihing Patkai National Park
Bihar Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Patna Part 3: Hajipur, Nalanda Part 4: Rajgir, Sasaram, Kaimur Part 5: Bodh Gaya, Vaishali Part 6: Muzzafarpur, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Lauriya Nandangarh, Bhagalpur, Valmiki National Park Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary
Chhattisgarh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Raipur, Champaran Part 2: Bhilai, Durg, Rajnandgaon, Chirmiri, Madku Dweep, Bhoramdeo Temple, Guru Ghasidas National Park Part 3: Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, Bilaspur, Raigarh, Korba, Ambikapur, Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Mainpat, Malhar Part 4: Mahasamund, Sirpur, Rajim, Jagdalpur, Dhamtari, Dhamtari, Dantewada, Kanger Ghati National Park
Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Daman Part 2: Diu Part 3: Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Delhi Part 1: Introduction and Overview, India Gate, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Jantar Mantar, Rajghat Part 2: Iron Pillar, National War Memorial, Rajpath, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Agrasen Ki Baoli, Ghalib Ki Haveli, Alai Darwaza/Minar, Bhool Bhulaiya ka Mahal, Purana Qila, Part 3: Tughlaqabad Fort. Siri Fort, Feroza Kotla Fort, Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, ISKON Mandir, Birla Temple, Chhatrapur Temple, Kalkaji Temple, Kali Bari Temple, Yogmaya Temple, Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir, Lotus Temple Part 4: Jama Masjid, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Fatehpuri Masjid, Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, Nizamuddin Dargah, Humayun’s Tomb, Safdarjung’s Tomb, Isa Khan’s Tomb, Hijron ka Khanqah, Nicholson Cemetery Part 5: Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, Rakab Ganj Gurdwara, Sunder Nursery, Lodhi Gardens, Garden of Five Senses, National Rose Garden, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya, National Museum, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum, Indian War Memorial Museum, National Handicrafts Museum Part 6: Indira Gandhi Memorial Museum, Sanskriti Museums, Charkha Museum, Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, Shankar’s International Dolls Museum, Museum of Archaeology, National Railway Museum, Museo Camera, National Gallery of Modern Art, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Museum of Illusions, National Zoological Park, National Bal Bhavan, Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Dilli Haat, Sarojini Market, Lajpat Nagar, Majnu ka Tila, Pragati Maidan
Goa Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: North Goa, Vagator Beach, Anjuna Beach, Calangute Beach, Sinquerim Beach, Candolim Beach, Arambol Beach, Mandrem Beach, Morjim Beach, Miramar Beach, Siridao Beach, Bogdeshwara Temple, Mangeshi Temple, Mahalaxmi Temple, Fort Aguada, Chapora Fort, Reis Magos Fort, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Chapel of St. Catherine, Church of Mae De Deus, Goa State Museum, Houses of Goa Museum, Museum of Christian Art, Casino Palms, Chorao Island, Harvalem Waterfalls Part 3: South Goa, Butterfly Beach, Betalbatim Beach, Agonda Beach, Mobor Beach, Hollant Beach, Palolem Beach, Cansaulim Beach, Colva Beach, Talpona Beach, Kakolem Beach, Benaulim Beach, Our Lady of Remedios Church, Saviour of the World Church, St. Alex Church, Shantadurga Temple, Tambdi Surla Mahadev Temple, Chandreshwar Bhoothnath Temple, Naval Aviation Museum, Goa Chitra Museum, Big Foot Museum, The Grande Island, Pequeno Island, Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudhsagar Falls, Bamanbudo Waterfalls, Netravali Bubbling Lake, Cabo de Rama Fort, Chandor
Gujarat Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Surat, Vapi, Udvada, Valsad, Bilimora, Navsari, Bharuch, Saputara Part 3: Ahmedabad, Lothal, Vadodara, Anand Part 4: Gandhinagar, Patan, Mehsana, Palanpur Part 5: Rajkot, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Palitana, Part 6: Kutch, Bhuj, Mandvi, Rann of Kutch, Anjar
Haryana Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Gurugram, Manesar, Sohna Part 2: Faridabad, Nuh, Murthal, Rohtak, Meham Part 3: Hisar, Panipat, Karnal Part 4: Kurukshetra, Ambala Part 5: Panchkula, Morni Hills, Narnaul
Himachal Pradesh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Shimla, Kufri, Fagu, Theog, Hatkoti Valley, Chanshal Valley Part 2: Chail, Solan, Barog, Nahan, Sirmour, Paonta Sahib, Shoghi, Kasauli, Arki, Nalagarh, Dadasiba, Bilaspur, Dalhousie, Part 3: Kangra, Khajjiar, Bharmour, Chamba, Tattapani, Jalori Pass, Jibhi, Mandi Part 4: Trithan Valley, Bhuntar, Sainj Valley, Barot, Bir Billing, Palampur, Kasol, Nagar, Manikaran Sahib, Tosh, Parvati Valley Part 5: Kullu, Manali, Dharamsala, McLeodganj Part 6: Keylong, Pin Valley National Park, Spiti Valley, Narkanda, Mashroba, Kinnaur, Sarahan, Sangla Valley, Kalpa, Pangi Valley, Nako
Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Kashmir, Srinagar, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Pahalgam, Amarnath, Pulwama, Kupwara, Poonch, Anantnag, Baramulla, Dachigam National Park Part 2: Jammu, Patnitop, Rajouri, Udhampur, Kathua, Katra, Vaishno Devi, Kishtwar Part 3: Ladakh, Leh, Leh Palace, Thiksey Gompa, Pangong Lake, Magnetic Hill, Nubra Valley and Khardung La Pass, Kargil, Drass, Hemis High Altitude Wildlife Sanctuary, Lamayuru, Lake Tso Moriri
Jharkhand Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Ranchi Part 2: Hazaribagh, Bokaro Steel City Part 3: Jamshedpur, Neterhat Part 4: Dhanbad, Shikarji, Deoghar, Dumka
Karnataka Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Bengaluru Part 3: Mysuru, Mangalore, Belgaum Part 4: Hubli-Dharwad, Gulbarga, Bidar, Badami, Bijapur, Hassan, Shimoga, Hampi, Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Jog Falls, Shivanasamudra Falls, Kodasalli Backwater Part 5: Coorg, Chikmagalur, Sakleshpur, Kudremukh, Kemmanagundi, Kotagiri, Masinagudi, Devarayanadurga, Karwar, Devbagh, Kumta, Netrani Island, Murudeshwar, Maravanthe, St. Mary’s Island, Udipi Part 6: Udipi, Kollur, Sringeri, Dharmasthala, Horanadu, Talakadu, Belur, Shravanbelagola, Gokarna, Murudeshwar, Koodli, Srirangapatna, Pattadakal, Aihole, Kalasa
Kerala Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode Part 3: Wayanad, Mallapuram, Palakkad Part 4: Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alappuzha Part 5: Kottayam, Idukki, Patanamthitta Part 6: Kollam, Tiruvanathapuram
Lakshadweep Islands Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Aminidivi, Cora Divh, Sesostris Bank, Bassas de Pedro, Cherbaniani Reef, North Islet, Byramgore Reef, Chetlat Island, Bitra Par, Kilthan Island, Kadmat Island, Kadmat Beach, Elikalpeni Bank, Perumal Par, Amini Island Part 3: Laccadive, Amindivi, Agatti Island, Bangaram, Pakshipitti, Andrott Island, Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Suheli Par Part 4: Minicoy, Maliku Atoll, Investigator Bank, Viringili
Madhya Pradesh Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Bhopal Part 3: Indore, Ujjain, Alampur Part 4: Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Mandu, Burhanpur Part 5: Chanderi, Shivpuri, Orchha, Khajurao Part 6: Gwalior, Jabalpur, Bhedaghat, Panchmarhi, Amarkantak, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kanha National Park, Pench National Park
Maharashtra Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Mumbai Part 2: Pune Part 3: Matheran, Lonavala, Khandala, Rajmachi, Lavasa, Kamshet, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Kaas Plateau, Maval, Bhandardara, Chikhaldara, Bhimashankar Part 4: Amravati, Aurangabad, Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Lonar, Chiplun, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nanded, Nashik, Triambakeshwar, Shirdi, Shani Shinganapur, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Satara Part 5: Dahanu, Alibaug, Kashid, Diveagar, Harihareshwar, Murud, Karade, Ganpatipule, Tarkarli, Vengurla, Tadoba National Park, Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandoli National Park, Gugumal National Park, Navegaon National Park, Malvan Marine Sanctuary, Rehekuri Blackbuck Sanctuary
Manipur Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Imphal Part 2: Moirang, Tamenglong, Thoubal Part 3: Chandel, Tengnoupal, Moreh, Kaina, Ukhrul, Mount Koubru, Baruni Hill, Thangjing Hill, Sadu Chiru Waterfall
Meghalaya Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Shillong Part 3: Mawphlang, Cherrapunji, Nongpoh, Mawsynram Part 4: Jowai, Mawlynnong, Dawki, Balpakram National Park, Williamnagar, Baghmara, Tura Part 5: Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, Garo Hills
Mizoram Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Aizwal, Falkawn Village Part 2: Reiek, Hmuifang, Kolasib, Tamdil or Tam Lake, Mamit, Vantawng Falls, Serchhip Part 3: Dampa Tiger Reserve, Lunglei, Champhai Part 4: Murlen National Park, Phawngpui, Phawngpui National Park, Saiha,
Nagaland Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Dimapur Part 2: Kohima Part 3: Mokokchung, Tuensang, Phek, Mon, Pfutsero
Odisha Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Bhubaneshwar, Dhauli Part 2: Cuttack, Rayagada, Daringbadi, Berhampur, Jeypore Part 3: Puri, Baripada, Sambalpur, Rourkela Part 4: Konark, Paradeep, Gopalpur, Chandipur Part 5: Lake Chilika, Tikarpada Wildlife Sanctuary, Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Bhitarkanika National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary, Simlipal National Park, Duduma Waterfalls, Chandaka Forest, Kotgarh Elephant Reserve, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary
Puducherry Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Puducherry Part 2: Karaikal, Mahé, Yanam
Rajasthan Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Jaipur, Udaipur Part 2: Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Sawai Madhopur, Pushkar
Sikkim Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Gangtok Part 3: Tinkitam Rayong, Namchi, Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Kabi Longstok, Tendong Hill, Aritar, Zuluk, Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary, Pelling, Yuksom, Ravangla Part 4: Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary, Geyzing, Yangtey, Borong, Mangan, Chopta Valley, Lachung, Lachen, Yumthang Valley, Thangu Valley, Gurudongmar Lake, Cholamu Lake, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Khangchendzonga National Park, Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, Goecha La
Tamil Nadu Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Chennai Part 2: Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Tiruppur, Tirunelveli Part 3: Ooty, Kodaikanal, Yercaud, Coonoor, Yelagiri, Bellikkal Part 4: Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Chidambaram, Vaitheeshwaran Kovil, Part 5: Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Swamimalai, Rameshwaram, Madurai Part 6: Mahabalipuram, Kanyakumari, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Hogenakkal Falls, Kutralam Falls
Telangana Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Hyderabad Part 1 Part 2: Hyderabad Part 2 Part 3: Secunderabad Part 4: Warangal, Nizamabad Part 5: Khammam, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Mahbubnagar, Medak Part 6: Nalgonda, Bhadrachalam, Koti Linga, Somasila, Vemulawada
Tripura Part 1: Introduction and Overview Part 2: Agartala Part 3: Kailashahar, Unakoti, Udaipur, Ambassa, Pilak Archaeological Sites, Chabimura, Mahamuni Pagoda, Manubankul, Buddhist Stupa, Boxanagar Part 4: Baramura Eco Park, Kalapania Nature Park, Tepania Eco Park, Khumulwang Eco Park, Jampui Hills, Dumboor Lake, Dhalai, Rudrasagar Lake, Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary & Clouded Leopard National Park, Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajbari National Park, Rowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Gomati Wildlife Sanctuary
Uttar Pradesh Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Noida, Loni, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Muzzafarnagar Part 2: Hastinapur, Vrindavan, Mathura Part 3: Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Garhmukteshwar Part 4: Aligarh, Firozabad, Jhansi, Piilbhit, Bithoor, Naimisharanya Part 5: Kanpur, Lucknow Part 6: Ayodhya, Sravasti, Prayagraj Part 7: Chitrakoot, Vindhyachal, Varanasi, Sarnath, Kushinagar
Uttarakhand Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Dehradun Part 2: Mussoorie, Dhanaulti Part 3: Auli, Joshimath, Chopta, Tungnath, Ukhimath, Lansdowne, Nainital Part 4: Sattal, Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, Kausani, Ranikhet, Almora, Binsar, Jalna, Kasar Devi, Jageshwar, Champawat, Munsiyari, Pithorgarh Part 5: Bageshwar, Chamoli, Mana, Badrinath, Pandukeshwar, Hemkund Sahib, Kedarnath, Gomukh, Madhyamaheshwar, Gangotri, Gauri Kund, Yamunotri Part 6: Rudranath, Guptakashi, Nandprayag, Rudraprayag, Devprayag, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Roopkund Lake, Nelong Valley, Gangotri National Park, Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary, Valley of Flowers, Nanda Devi National Park, Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajaji National Park, Jim Corbett National Park
West Bengal Part 1: Introduction and Overview, Kolkata Part 2: Howrah, Barrackpore, Chandan Nagar, Chinsurah, Bardhaman, Haldia, Midnapore Part 3: Shantiniketan, Durgapur, Jhargram, Asansol, Murshidabad, Mukutmanipur, Malda, Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Bagdogra Part 4: Kurseong, Mirik, Darjeeling, Tinchuley, Dooars, Kalimpong Part 5: Rishyap, Lava and Lolegaon, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Rajabhatkawa, Jaldapara National Park, Jaldhaka, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, Lataguri, Purulia, Sonajhuri Forest, Deulti, Sundarbans, Mayapur, Nabadwipa, Bakreswar Part 6: Bankura, Bishnupur, Jayrambati, Kamarpukur, Tarapith, Falta, Raichak, Taki, Piyali Island, Machranga Dwip, Kakdwip, Mousuni Island, Bakkhali, Junput, Mandarmani, Tajpur, Shankarpur
In this part, we continue to check out more fabrics and sarees across India.
Ilkal Sarees: Known because it is produced in the town of Ilkal, an ancient weaving centre since the 8th century, the uniqueness of the Ilkal saree is in the joining of the body warp with the pallu warp with a series of loops locally called the tope teni technique. The border colour is very dominating and is usually red or maroon. The distinctive feature of the Ilkal saree is the use of a form of embroidery called Kasuti. The designs used in Kasuti reflect traditional patterns like palanquins, elephants, and lotuses which are embroidered onto the saree. The main body design is usually made up of squares and rectangles. The Ilkal saris are woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for the border and pallu portion. In some cases instead of art silk, pure silk is also used. The Tope Teni seragu has been regarded as a state symbol and was greatly respected during festival occasions. The sarees that are made for bridal wear are made of a particular colour called Giri Kumukum which is associated with the sindoor worn by the wives of the priests in this region. The weaving of the Ilkal saree is a household enterprise involving the participation of female members. One Ilkal saree takes about seven days to weave and are produced on pit looms.
Mysore Silk: One of Karnataka’s most famous exports, the Mysore silk is synonymous with the city of Mysuru and the silk factory was founded in 1912 by Sri Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore. Initially, the silk fabrics were manufactured & supplied to meet the requirements of the royal family and ornamental fabrics to their armed forces. After Indian independence, the Mysore State Sericulture Dept took control of the silk weaving factory. The saree zari contains 65% pure silver and 0.65% of gold, which is also the most distinct feature of the saree, along with the use of genuine silk that gives it a natural sheen and rich texture. Karnataka produces almost 45% of the country’s mulberry silk. Mysore silk has also received geographical identification. Mysore Silks are also one of the most expensive silk sarees in India and this has led to the production of duplicate Mysore silk saree production and sales. To avoid these issues, KSIC has implemented a unique ID, hologram-based design, and unique identification barcodes woven on each saree produced.
Kasavu Saree: Symbolic of Kerala’s tradition and culture, the traditional Kasavu saree was made by hand from cotton yarn with borders made of golden threads. Believed to have originated in the Buddhist era, the white and gold sarees are unique due to their natural hues, texture and gold border which adds to their elegance. No occasion in Kerala feels complete without the Kasavu saree. The term kasavu refers to the zari or gold thread used in the border of the saree and the name comes from a material used in the weaving and production of these sarees. The origin of the kasavu saree can be traced back to when women would wear a two-piece cloth called settu mundu, more popularly known as the mundum neriyathum. The mundum neriyathum rose in popularity during the Buddhist era, and its design has been inspired by the Greco-Roman attire, Palmyrene, a long piece of unstitched cloth with a coloured border.
The identity of the saree comes from the geographical cluster they are associated with. The Indian government has identified three clusters in Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam and Kuthampully – that have been given a Geographical Indication or GI tag and all three clusters produce kasavu sarees. A plain saree with a simple border takes roughly around three to five days. Ones with motifs and heavier work take longer than that. The sarees are priced depending on the time taken on their production, along with the gold used in the zari or kasavu.
Chanderi: Emerging between the 2nd and 7th centuries, Chanderi sarees are produced from three types of fabrics – pure silk, cotton and silk cotton and are synonymous with the town of Chanderi which is on the boundary of Malwa and Bundelkhand. In the 11th century, the trade locations between Malwa, Medwa, central India and south Gujarat increased the region’s importance. Around 1350, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and settled there and the textile business of Chanderi reached its peak during the Mughal period. Traditional coin, floral art, peacocks and modern geometric designs are woven into different Chanderi patterns. The saris are among the finest in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk, and opulent embroidery.
Maheshwari: Originating from the town of Maheshwar, the Maheshwari saree is made of silk and cotton in a variety of designs woven using brocade and zari. Dating to the 18th century, the sarees were initially made of pure silk, but over time, cotton also came to be used. An interesting story behind the origin of these sarees is that a famous queen had once ordered a large number of artisans and craftsmen from Surat and Malwa to design a unique saree of 9 yards, later termed the Maheshwari saree. These cloth pieces were used as special gifts for the royal guests of the palace. A unique feature of the Maheshwari saree is that each has a specific name of its own, which indicates its distinctness. The sarees may be plain at the centre and have neatly designed borders, or they may have different variations of stripes and checks. The sarees fall under 5 broad categories namely Chandratara, Chandrakala, Beli, Baingani Chandrakala and Parbi. The Baingani Chandrakala and Chandrakala are plain ones, while the Beli, Chandratara, and Parbi come with stripes or checks.
Karvati: Hailing from the Vidarbha region, Karvati silks are made from Tussar with a grainy, textural feel. What is unique about the silk used in Karvati saris is that it is exclusive to this specific region that is rich in high-quality silk cocoons, straight from the wild. The tribes hailing from this area assume the responsibility of protecting the silk cocoons until they are ready to be harvested. The Tussar is unlike any other silk; it has a unique shade of deep yellow-brown.
The word karvat is a Marathi term that refers to a saw-tooth pattern. Karvati is the name lent to the style of the border rather than the fabric itself. What is different about the saree is the technique and the mixed usage of yarn. The border is woven out of mercerized cotton yarns with traditional temple motifs of various sizes, using an extra warp while the rest of the sari is woven using pure, hand-reeled Tussar silk which provides a texture that has irregular stubs all over. The saree is woven using a three-shuttle, tapestry style of weaving with a pit loom mounted with a wooden lattice dobby in the Nagpur style on the top of the loom. This means that it uses three different styles of weaving at the same time.
Paithani: Dating to the Satvahana Dynasty that ruled between the second century BC and the second century AD, Paithani sarees are fine silk handloom sarees get their name from the town in which they originated, Paithan in Aurangabad. Available in both six and nine yards, the most interesting part about the Paithani handloom is that both sides of the saree look the same, including the border and the pallu. This feature is the telltale sign of a handloom Paithani. As Paithani sarees are woven from naturally dyed threads, they can usually be found only in basic colours. Each saree usually has two dominating colours, one on the saree and the other on the border and pallu. The Paithani is characterised by borders of an oblique square design, and a pallu with a peacock design. Among other varieties, single-coloured and kaleidoscope-coloured designs are also popular. The kaleidoscopic effect is achieved by using one colour for weaving lengthwise and another for weaving width-wise.
The Paithani is a sari made of silk and zari with a plain weave, with weft figuring designs according to the principles of the tapestry. Traditionally, Paithanis had coloured, cotton muslin fields that often contained considerable supplementary zari patterning. However, in the 19th century, silk fields were also woven. Due to its proximity to the Ajanta caves, the influence of Buddhist paintings can be seen in the woven Paithani motifs. These sarees are made of silk in which there is no extra weft forming figures. Weaving could take between 18 and 24 months, depending upon the complexity of the design. In the days of Peshwas, the borders and the pallu were made of pure gold mixed with copper to give it strength spun into a fine wire called the zari. In recent times, zari is made of silver, coated with gold plating. In the border woven with a zari, ground-coloured silk patterns are added as supplementary weft inlay against the zari usually in the form of a flower or a creeping vine.
Bomkai: Also known as the Sonepuri Saree, the Bomkai Saree is a handloom saree from the Bomkai village and has a GI tag. Usually made of cotton, these sarees are also made of silk for special occasions. During the time of Ramai Dev the then ruler of Patna, it was introduced in Sonepur. The borders and pallus are usually designed with fishes as it is believed to be a sign of success and affluence. The sari is normally dyed in red, black and white.
Khandua: A traditional bandha or ikat saree, Khandua is also known as Maniabandi or Kataki and is worn during weddings with a special type of fabric worn by Lord Jagannath which contain texts of the Geeta Govinda on them. The word Khandua in Odia translates to the cloth worn in the lower half of the body. Traditionally Kentuli Khandua is offered to Jagannath as lower cloth. The weaver communities of Maniabandha and Nuapatana of Cuttack traditionally wove this kind of fabric and during the rule of the Gajapatis, the sarees were made and transported to the Jagannath Temple. Nilakantha Deva, the King of Badakhemundi was offered khandua sari made of one piece of khandua silk called caukandika. Khandua is traditionally red or orange in colour with the red colour prepared naturally from the sal tree. The design motif has an auspicious elephant that represents Buddha surrounded by a trailing vine with peacocks in it, a large many-petaled flower, an animal unique to Orissa known as Nabagunjara. The elephant in Khandua ikat from Nuapatana usually varies from elephant motives in ikat from the Sambalpuri saree as well as the ikat from other parts of Orissa. The Khandua has plain borders contrary to borders with motifs in the case of the other ikats from the state.
Pasapali: Also known as the Saktapar, the Pasapali saree is a bandha or Ikat handloom sari woven mainly in the Bargarh district. The name Pasapali is derived from pasa or gambling games using a chess board and these sarees have intricate check patterns of contrasting colours resembling the chess boards which gives it its name.
Sambalpuri: A traditional handwoven ikat where the warp and the weft are tie-dyed before weaving, the Sambalpuri saree is known for its incorporation of traditional motifs, all of which have deep symbolism in red, black and white that represent Odia culture. The high point of these sarees is the traditional craftsmanship of the Bandhakala, or the tie-dye art reflected in their intricate weaves, also known as Sambalpuri Ikkat. In this technique, the threads are first tie-dyed and later woven into a fabric, with the entire process taking many weeks. These sarees also have a Geographical Indication or GI tag associated with them. Traditionally, craftsmen created the ikats with images of flora or fauna or with geometrical patterns, but recently the ikats depict portraits and landscapes are also being designed. The unique feature of this form of designing is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both sides of the fabric. Once the fabric is dyed it can never be bleached into another colour. It is believed that this art migrated to western Odisha along with the Bhulia community who fled north India in 1192 after the fall of the Chouhan empire at the hands of the Mughals.
Phulkari: Punjab’s folk embroidery, Phulkari which means floral work also includes motifs and geometrical shapes. In Punjabi, Phul means flower and Akari means the shape and so Phulkari means the shape and the direction of flowers which symbolise life. The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. The traditional varieties of Phulkaris are large items of cloth and include Chope, Tilpatr, Neelak and Bagh. Sometimes, the Bagh is given separate categorisation of its own as on other varieties of a Phulkari, parts of the cloth are visible, whereas, in a Bagh, the embroidery covers the entire garment so that the base cloth is not visible. Today, in contemporary designs, the simple and sparsely embroidered dupattas and shawls made for everyday use, are referred to as phulkari, while clothing items that cover the entire body, made for special and ceremonial occasions such as weddings are called baghs or large gardens. The Phulkari continues to be an integral part of Punjabi weddings to the present day.
In the past, as soon as a girl was born, mothers and grandmothers would start embroidering Baghs and Phulkaris, which were to be given away at the time of her marriage. Depending on the status of the family, the parents would give a dowry of 11 to 101 Baghs and Phulkaris which were also passed from one generation to the next as heirlooms. The hallmark of Phulkari is making innumerable patterns by using long and short darn stitches. There were no pattern books and embroidery was worked entirely from the reverse of the fabric and the designs were not traced. Techniques and patterns were not documented but transmitted from word of mouth and each regional group was identified with the style of embroidery or design. The most favoured colour was red and its shades. Animals and birds represented success, beauty, pride, and goodwill and different fruits symbolised wealth, prosperity, and fertility. Wheat and barley stalks with ears were also common motifs. Silk and mulmul or soft cotton muslin fabrics were used because of their purity and longevity and it was believed that the virtue and character of a woman gave shape to the Phulkari.
There are different theories about the origin of Phulkari. One such belief is that this embroidery was prevalent in different parts of the country as far back as the 7th century, but survived only in Punjab. Motifs similar to the ones found in Phulkari are also found in Kashida of Bihar and some of the embroideries of Rajasthan. Another thought is that this style of embroidery came from Iran where it was called Gulkari, also meaning floral work.
Gota Patti: Gota patti or gota work is a type of Indian embroidery that originated in Rajasthan. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Gota embroidery is used extensively in South Asian weddings and formal clothes. Originally real gold and silver metals were used to embroider, but these were eventually replaced by copper coated with silver as it would become very expensive and today, even more, inexpensive options are available.
Kota Doriya: A handloom fabric, Kota Doriya is woven on a traditional pit loom in such a way that it produces square checks pattern on the fabric. The delicately wrought checks are locally known as khats. Onion juice and rice paste are smeared onto the yarn making it so strong that no additional finishing is needed. Kota Doriya sarees are made of pure cotton and silk and have square-like patterns known as khats on them. The chequered weave of a Kota sari is very popular with a very fine weave and weighs very little.
It is said that Jhala Zalim Singh of Kotah brought weavers from Mysore, in the mid-17th century, as they wove a characteristic small squared lightweight cotton fabric that looked like graph paper and was suitable for turbans. Since the weavers had come from Mysore, the fabric produced was called Kota Masuriya and was woven on narrow 8-inch looms to make the traditional paags or turbans and later on, broader looms were used for gossamer-light saris. Silk was added to the cotton in a 20:80 ratio approximately to give the sari strength. Nowadays hand woven silk Kota Doriya saris have also become popular. At first, the design known as a buti was small and regular but larger designs are now made according to fashion and taste. A very ornate saree can take one month to make and is an heirloom piece to be treasured. A genuine Kota Doriya sari will contain the GI mark woven in one corner indicating that it has been hand woven using real silver and gold thread.
Leheriya: Leheriya is a traditional style of tie and dye practised in Rajasthan which is bright in colour, with a distinctive pattern. The word Leheriya comes from the word leher, meaning wave and the tie-dye technique results in diagonal stripes, which look like waves on the fabric. To create diagonal stripes, the craftsmen use a special method of resist-dyeing, where the material, is rolled up diagonally length-wise and then tied tightly at intervals before the actual dyeing process begins. Delicate, light fabrics such as thin cotton voile, fine silk and chiffon are preferred, as they allow the colour to penetrate through the rolled cloth. The fabric is wrapped around a wooden pole, usually while it is still wet or in a semi-dry state. The thread that ties up the fabric acts as a resist, yielding a pattern of diagonal stripes after dyeing. The thickness of the thread and the distance between the ties may be varied to obtain stripes of different widths.
An astounding variety of Leheriya fabrics are produced using this simple process. A panchranga or five-colour design is the most auspicious since the number five is considered special in Hindu scriptures. Another beautiful pattern is the satranga, flaunting the seven colours of the rainbow.
Kanjeevaram: A silk saree which is worn on special occasions, the Kanjeevaram or Kanchipuram is made in the Kanchipuram region. This saree has also been recognised and given the Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government. The sarees are distinguished by their wide contrast borders with temple borders, checks, stripes and floral patterns as traditional designs. The patterns and designs in the Kancheepuram sarees are inspired by the images and scriptures in South Indian temples or natural features like leaves, birds and animals and have rich woven pallus showing the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. As of 2008, an estimated 5,000 families were involved in sari production with 25 silk and cotton yarn industries and 60 dyeing units in the region.
The saris are woven from pure mulberry silk thread, which along with the zari or gold thread comes from South India. To weave a Kanjeevaram saree. three shuttles are used. While the weaver works on the right side, his aide works on the left side shuttle. The border colour and design are usually quite different from the body. If the pallu has to be woven in a different shade, it is first separately woven and then delicately joined to the saree and the part where the body meets the pallu is often denoted by a zigzag line. In a genuine Kajeevaram silk saree, the body and the border are woven separately and then interlocked together. The joint is woven so strongly that even if the saree tears, the border will not detach and this differentiates the Kanjeevaram silk saree from the others. The sarees vary widely in price depending on the intricacy of work, colours, patterns, craftsmanship and materials used.
Koorainaadu: A traditional handloom weaving centre, Koorainadu sarees are by their checks and stripes pattern for which plain looms are used. It is made with pure silk and fine-twisted mercerized cotton yarn, in both warp and weft, in the ratio of 2:1, giving every Koorainadu saree a silk look. A peculiar characteristic of this saree is the formation of cotton checks by the interlacing of warp and weft during weaving which can be woven only by an experienced weaver. The sarees are hence stiffer and easier to hold the pleats which make them easier to wear. Koorainadu sarees are mostly worn by the womenfolk of the Hindu community green and yellow colours are used to make it auspicious and so it is often worn by married women wishing for long-lasting wedlock. The nine-yard Koorainadu saris are made with cotton or cotton and silk, in checks or striped patterns with a contrasting border in yellow. Saris with wide borders are called temple saris because they are offered to the deities in the temple.
Sungudi: Traditional cotton sarees from the Madurai area, Sungudi sarees are defined by the pattern of block prints and tie and dye designs. The origins of Sungudi can be traced back to the Sourashtrians who brought the art with them when they migrated to South India under the patronage of King Thirumalai Naicker in the 17th century. In Saurashtra, the word sungudi relates to the Sanskrit word sunnam meaning round, representing the circular dots that are printed on the fabric as a prominent and special motif.
The dots in the saris are said to be inspired by the cosmos which is why most Sungudi sarees remind one of a starry night. Tying the knots of the sari demands a great amount of precision from the craftsman. Ideally, a three-inch gap between the body and the zari border and also with the pallu lends a neat and symmetrical look to the crude dots. The designs are sometimes marked with a pencil on the fabric for ease in the process. The Sungudi art has seven basic designs that can be modified with different permutations and combinations to provide variety and highlight the creativity of the craftsman. The smaller the dot the better the expertise and this comes only with extensive practice and time. In the early days people used rudimentary methods like tying the knots with mustard or peppercorn seeds. Although this seems like a rural and unpolished method, its success lay in its simplicity. Authentic Sungudi is more than just tying knots. There is a lot of meticulousness that goes into producing a piece that looks effortless. Once the knots are tied in the desired pattern, the sari is clamped which involves pleating, twisting, folding and wrapping it tightly before dyeing it for around two hours. Then the sari is subjected to two rounds of washing with cold water with an organic fixing agent followed by drying and ironing. The resultant fabric is a beautiful sheet like stars in the sky. In 2005 the art of Sungudi tie and dye got the GI recognition tag.
In the next part, the last one, we will do the last few states and also learn about some interesting saree drapes.
Known by its former colonial name of Quilon and Desinganadu in ancient times, Kollam is an old seaport and city on the Laccadive Sea coast on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake. Kollam has a strong commercial reputation since the days of the Phoenicians and Romans.Fed by the Chinese trade, it was mentioned by Ibn Battuta in the 14th century as one of the five Indian ports he had seen during the course of his twenty-four-year travels. Desinganadu’s kings exchanged embassies with Chinese rulers while there was a flourishing Chinese settlement at Kollam. Kollam is also home to one of the seven churches that were established by St Thomas. The Kollam Port was founded by Mar Sabor at Tangasseri in 825 as an alternative to reopening the inland seaport of Kore-ke-ni Kollam near Backare or Thevalakara, which was also known as Nelcynda and Tyndis to the Romans and Greeks and as Thondi to the Tamils. Today, Kollam is known for cashew processing and coir manufacturing.
Thevalli Palace: A place of great historical importance, the Thevally Palace is situated on the banks of the Ashtamude Lake. Once serving as the home of the Maharaja of Travancore, it was constructed under the rule of Gauri Parvathi Bai between 1800 and 1819. The striking feature about the palace is that it presents an intriguing fusion of Dutch, English and Portuguese style of architecture.
Thangassery: A place of high historical significance, Thangassery is located just 5 km from the main town of Kollam. The area houses several old churches said to have been established in the 18th century. Another important feature of the town is 144 ft high lighthouse built in 1902.
Amritapuri: The Ashram of Amritapuri has been constructed at the same place where Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi was born. People from all over the world, flock in to seek the blessings of Amma. Looking at Amritapuri, one can relive the ancient saying of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which translates to the entire world is one family. It is a collection of people from different cultures, speaking different languages and following different religions. Diverse people from different environments live together under a single roof in search of a meaningful life. Amritapuri Ashram is a small village remotely located on a small island which is surrounded by the backwaters and the Arabian Sea.
Karunagappally: The town of Karunagapally is located 23 km away from Kollam and comprises of resorts and beautiful beaches. The beauty of the place is such that it is also known as God’s own country. The main attraction for tourists flocking to the town is due to the boat facility offered at Alumkadavu. The scenic beauty of the place combined with its peaceful ambience is what makes it worth escaping to from the screeching noise and the hustle bustle of the city. The best places to visit here include Azheekal Beach, the Oachira Temple, Alumkadavu and Sasthamkotta Lake, the only freshwater lake in Kerala.
Kulathupuzha: A small village located in Kollam, Kulathupuzha is located on the Kollam-Shenkottai highway and is barely 59 kilometres away from Kollam and 64 kilometres away from Thiruvananthapuram. The village river, River Kulathupuzha, is home to numerous species of fishes and the region is as rich and dense forests and rubber plantation. The Myristica Swamps and the forest region form the Kulathupuzha Reserve Forest and the Kulathupuzha Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the oldest tea estates also is located in the village. Tourists not only get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the villagers but also experience it as they explore the village. Kulathupuzha is renowned for its ancient Sastha Temple dedicated to Bala Sastha who is considered an avatar of Lord Hariharaputra and is situated on the banks of River Kulathupuzha. The most important event in Kulathupuzha is the annual festival of Vishnu Mahotsavam which is celebrated during the months of April and May. Devotees on their way to Sabarimala often halt here and offer their prayers to Bala Sastha.
Oachira Temple: Quite a sought after pilgrim center in kollam, Oachira lies on the Kollam-Alappuzha Road. Locals of the area worship Lord Parabrahman who’s neither the idol or the temple is present at the site. The temple is dedicated to ParaBrahma, who is better known as Shiva or Ohmkaram, which is the Universal Consciousness. This means that the temple has no fixed or prescribed mode of worship and that consciousness is given the highest value here. The temple thus propagates the message of universal brotherhood and spirituality.The fact that the temple has no specific structural layout again adds on to this ideology that it upholds. Spread over thirty-six acres of land, the majestic temple witnesses a massive footfall of tourists and pilgrims daily, who belong to all sects and religions; and visit to seek blessings from the almighty irrespective of their faith. The annual festival of Ochira Kali that takes place at the temple every year in the month of June also draws enormous crowds, and visitors especially love to witness the mock fights that take place here in the waterlogged paddy fields.
Kottukkal Cave Temple: Also known as Kaltrikkovil in the Malayalam language, the Kottukkal Cave Temple is a beautiful and serene rock-cut shrine that is located in the Kotthukkal Village near Anchal. The temple is an excellent example of rock cut architecture that prevailed between the 6th and 8th centuries CE, and is looked at with awe by architecture students as well as pious devotees alike. As per local legends, the big rock that makes up a significant part of the temple was brought to its present area by the incarnations of Lord Shiva, which also included Nandi. The present structure of the rock-cut temple comprises of two caves in all, both of which face the east direction. An idol of the presiding deity Lord Ganpati is present between the two caves. In addition to this, the more massive cave has Nandi in it, while the smaller one has an idol of Lord Hanuman. A Shivalinga is also present inside the temple. This combination of Shivalinga, Nandi and Hanuman is indeed unique and is found nowhere in India other than in Kollam. The temple is a breathtaking structure and is located amidst a paddy field. When viewed from a distance, it appears to be a sleeping elephant; and this adds to the beauty of the cave temple. Scholars and historians believe that the Kottukkal Cave Temple dates back to the Pallava period of the 8th century BC. Others scholars, however, believe that the cave dates back to some time between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D. The third school of thought assigns the date to 7th century AD in remembrance of Nedila Paranthaka Nedumchadayan, who ruled Chadayamangalam between 6th and 7th century AD. The Travancore Devaswom Board administers the cave and is responsible for conducting daily pooja services in the temple. It was in 1966 that the state government of Kerala pronounced the Kottukal cave to be recognised as a protected monument.
Kottarakkara Sree Mahaganapathi Kshethram: A famous pilgrim centre the Kottarakkara Sree Mahaganapathy Kshethram lies 25 kilometres away from Kollam. Considered to be one of the most important Maha Ganapathi Temple in all of Kerala, the temple is believed to be centuries old. Even though the main deity at the temple is Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha is given utmost importance here. Other deities worshipped at the temple are Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha, Lord Murugan, Nagaraja and Lord Ayyappan. The legend of the Kottarakkara Sree Mahaganapathy Kshethram is associated with Perumthachan, who was a master carpenter who skillfully trained his son in carpentry and architecture. When the son bypassed the father’s skills and began to become famous far and wide, Perumthachan began to suffer from professional jealousy. If rumours are true, he dropped his chisel on his own son and faked it as an accident. Following these sad turn of events, Perumthachan started wandering and reached Kottarakkara, where he saw the Padinjattinkara temple that was under renovation. He also saw a jack tree root inside the Sarppakkavu, and he sculpted a beautiful idol of Lord Ganpati from the root. He asked the chief priest for his permission to install the lovely icon there, but he was denied since the temple already had one idol in it. Perumthachan then obtained permission from the main priest of the Manikandeswaram Kottarakkara Ganapathy Temple, and he installed the idol there. The melsanthi or the head priest was preparing nivedyam, that is offerings for the Lord, during this time. Perumthachan was curious and inquired about what the nivedyam for Lord Ganpati would be. When the head priest suggested unniyappam, Perumthachan readily agreed and instantly offered half a dozen unniyappams in a plantain leaf before the deity. Perumthachan then predicted that even though the presiding deity at the temple is Lord Shiva, his son Ganpati would gain more devotion and faith at the temple. This prophecy holds true to this date. There is yet another tale attached to the temple of Kottarakkara Sree Mahaganapathy Kshethram which talks about the marriage of Kottarakkara Thampuran’s daughter. The father of the to-be-bride requested Zamorin of Kozhikode to send a dance troupe from Malabar to perform at his daughter’s wedding. Zamorin, however, sarcastically refused to send the troupe, stating that the people of South Kerala are incapable of appreciating a fine art like Krishnanattam. Kottarakkara Thampuran thus felt insulted and prayed to Lord Ganapati at Kizhakkekara to help him find a way out. Sri Mahaganapathy then appeared in the dream of Thampuran. He gave him the unique idea of creating an altogether different art form. Thampuran then wrote the Ramanattam, designed the costumes, and in record time performed the Arangetram during the marriage of his daughter.
Rameshwara Temple: An ancient temple believed to be established in the Pandian style of architecture, the Rameshwara Temple in Kollam features inscriptions that date back to 12th to 16th century. Fascinating sculpture of a monster named Vyala can also be seen in the temple.
Infant Jesus Cathedral: A magnificent church located in Thangaserri, the Infant Jesus Cathedral is a historic Roman Catholic Church which was formerly known as the Bom Jesu Church and was established by the Portuguese in the year 1614. Built in the dedication of Saint Francis Xavier, the church witnesses a large footfall on all days of the week. The beautiful church with its marvellous architecture and spellbinding interiors is indeed a sight to behold on Sundays, that is the day of the mass when not only the Roman Catholics but people from all sects and religions come to seek the blessings of Jesus Christ.
Kumbhavurutty Waterfalls: Known for its clear blue waters that cascade from majestic heights, the Kumbhavurutty Waterfall is a popular tourist attraction that is located near the Aryankavu Panchayath and is part of the Achankovil River. The Kumbhavurutty Waterfalls boasts of being on the top of the list of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kerala, with its splendid views and colourful hues of the water fallings from a height of twenty-five metres.
Ashtamudi Lake: The second largest lake in Kerala, Ashtamudi Lake runs over a length of 16 kilometres and covers almost 30% of the town of Kollam. Its name, Ashtamudi has been derived from two words ‘Ashta’ meaning eight and ‘Mudi’ meaning branch, thereby stating the fact that lake has eight branches. All the eight branches converge into a single channel that meets with the Arabian Sea. The lake is fed by the major river, Kallada. Coconut trees and palms surround the entire vicinity of the lake adding to its beauty. The lake is laid with Chinese fishing nets to give it a different look. The banks of the lake are laden with greenery and bushes, which makes it a beautiful sight for sore eyes. It is the perfect spot to escape the city with your family and friends. The backwaters of the lake can be visited by anyone, all you need to do is hire a boat. Motorboats that range from 2 seaters to 14 seaters are available depending on the person’s requirement. The eight different branches of Ashtamudi each have different names. They are Thevally Lake, Kandachira Lake, Kureepuzha Lake, Thekkumbagham Lake, Kallada Lake, Perumon Lake, Kumbalathu Lake and Kanjirottu Lake. The huge size of the lake and its geographical structure has led to the formation of many tiny islands. There are three major recognised islands – Munroe Island, Chavara Island, Thekkumbhagom Island. Munroe is a cluster of eight small islands. They are mainly filled with rich, tropical trees and bushes. They haven’t been habituated due to how small they are. Houseboats circle around them during their voyage though. Chavara is an industrial island which has a few factories located on it due to the rich minerals found here. Thekkumbhagom is a rural island with a very rustic feel. It has a historic importance as the epic Malayalam poetry, Ramachandrvilasam was composed here. You can visit this village and experience the village life of fishermen and coconut farmers. A 1000 year old temple and 200 year old church are located on this island. They truly bring out the yester year feeling in anyone who visits them.
Munroe Island: Also known as Mundrothuruthu, Munroe Island is a picturesque and magnificent inland island that is located at the confluence of the Kallada River and the Ashtamudi Lake. Named in honour of its resident, Colonel John Munro who belonged to the former princely state of Travancore and during his stay here integrated several backwater regions by digging canals, the island is renowned for its splendid beauty and scenic views and adds to the sheer beauty and charm of the already intriguing God’s own country. This hidden treasure comprises of 8 islands in total, all of which are separated by small water channels and lakes. One can experience a country craft cruise through the Munroe Island, which provides the visitor with the golden opportunity to view and enjoy the typical backwater island villages, full of colourful flowers and other plants. The cruise operates twice a day at 9 am and 2 pm and the price of the ticket is INR 500 per person.
Sasthamcotla Lake: Sasthamcotla Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Kerala and said to have derived its name from an ancient Sastha Temple located near the lake. The lake is the biggest source of drinking water for the residents of kollam town. Located19 kms from kollam town, this lake houses a large population of larva cavborus which is responsible of consuming bacteria from the lake water and makes its healthy for drinking.
Achankovil River: The confluence of the Rishimala, Pasukidamettu and Ramakkalteri Rivers on the peninsula of the country gives rise to the breathtaking Achankovil River. The river originates from the hills of Achankovil in the Pathanamthitta, from where it flows through Mavelikkara, Thiruvalla and Karthikapally Taluk into the left of river Pamba, which lies near the Vembanattu Lake. Also known as Achankovilaaru, the river is about 128 kilometres long and is brimming with flora and fauna on its either bank. The word Achan Kovil means the shrine of Achan, or in other words, the shrine of the Supreme Deity. One can thus find numerous ancient temples and religious places of great importance along the river route, such as Pandalam, which is considered to be the native place of Lord Ayyappa. Edappon, a spot famous for its flora and fauna, also lies on the banks of the river, and this haven is also a must visit place.
Kollam Beach: Voted as the first Beach Wedding Destination in Kerala, the Kollam Beach requires no introduction. This scenic and breathtaking natural wonder is also known as the Mahatma Gandhi Beach and boasts of pristine blue waters that seem to unite with the bright sky at an infinite distance, while tourists marvel at the sheer magnificence of the majestic scene. Kollam Beach is brimming with a large number of local and international tourists all year round who can be seen enjoying the numerous activities that the beach offers, while also appreciating the enchanting panoramic views of the Arabian Sea. Kollam Beach also houses the Mahatma Gandhi Park, which was inaugurated in 1961, and has been a significant tourist attraction ever since. The area was formerly a port city and was also the harbour for Chinese ships and trade, and the traces of Chinese commerce can still be seen here. The beautiful beach is till date famous for its Chinese fishing nets, Chinese water pots and sampan like boats. The exotic views, lush greenery, calm backwaters and myriad of activities offered here make the place one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Kerala. It appeals to people of all age groups, from children to adults and the elderly, who never seem to get enough of the beach in just one visit.
Thangassery Lighthouse: Also known as the Tangasseri Light House, the Thangassery Lighthouse boasts of being the second tallest on the entire coast of Kerala and is thus even one of the most visited lighthouses in the state. Located at Tangasseri, it is one of the two lighthouses in the Kollam Metropolitan Area and is presently under the surveillance of the Chennai Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships. The majestic tower is clearly visible and distinct, with its painted red and white oblique bands, and looks pretty indeed in all its glory and majesty. The tower has a total height of 41 metres, or 135 feet, and has been operational since the year 1902. Closed on Mondays, the lighthouse is open from 10 am to 1 pm and then again from 2 to 6 pm on other days. Entrance fees is INR 10 for adults and INR 3 for children.
Rosemala: Nestled amidst the pretty pristine woods of Shenduruney forests, Rosemala is a well kept secret. Located in Aryanvaku, the valley appears the unfurling petals of a rose, hence the name. The highlight of the place is that it can only be reached by a 10 km long trek through the jungle. On the way, there are beautiful views of the green hills in the backdrop and several tinkering streams crisscrossing the forest path. Alternatively, you can also take a jeep or an SUV if you don’t want to venture out on foot. A little further on the path, there is the famous Rosemala watchtower. From the tower is visible the mighty Thenmala Dam in all its entirety and glory. Boasting of panoramic vistas of the gorgeous surroundings, the major attractions of the place are the beautiful woods, a watch tower and the lake. The tourists are welcomed to watch sweeping views of the surroundings and of the lake from the watchtower and also of the mighty Thenmala Dam. The beautiful valley abounds in the bounty of nature and is a mesmerizing place to visit.
Punalur: Lying along the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Punalur, Punalur derives its name from two words one Tamil and one Malayalam. Tamil word ‘punal’ means water and Malayalam word ‘ooru’ means place together making Punalur the place of water. Indeed Kallada flows right through the heart of the city with the famous suspension bridge hanging over it, stretching for 400 metres across its width. Panalur is known as Pepper Village of Kerala and is also houses a major Paper Mill established in 1850’s. Panalur has lovely woods of pineapples, coconut and palm trees, cinnamons and other spices and has exciting adventure sports and exotic jungle experiences in the Thenmala Ecotourism Park. Panalur It was the heart of the riots against Diwan back in the days and also the centre of the Keralite industrial revolution that took strength from the establishment of the Punalur paper mills. Historical importance apart, this town is also a proper tourist attraction mainly for the British era bridge and the picturesque beauty all around.
Pathanapuram: Known for its rubber and spice plantations, Pathanapuram is a beautiful town settled between the Western Ghats in the Eastern part of Kollam. Spread over an area of 248.32 square km, it is an important centre for trade. The residents of Pathanapuram indulge themselves in daily activities such as maintaining dairies, poultry, farming, rearing of goats, making bricks, weaving bamboos, etc. to earn their primary income. Since the town comprises of cultivations of spice and rubber, it attracts a huge number of foreign as well as local tourists who trade in this area of business. People also visit the place during the months of February and March to experience the Chandanakuddam festival which is held at the mosque every year for the devotees.
Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary: Located in the Western Ghats, the Shenduruny Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area that serves as the natural habitat for a myriad of plants, birds and animals, and provides them with a safe reclusive spot, far away from the dust and dirt of city life. The sanctuary was established on 25 August in 1984 and is presently under the control of the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve. This majestic site is like a treasure trove for all nature lovers, photographers, archaeologists and biologists since the place is home to endless flowering plants, birds and trees. Spread over an area of 172 square kilometres, the sanctuary also boasts of being home to an artificial lake that is around 18 square kilometres in size and is surrounded by the reservoir of the Thenmala Dam. According to archaeological studies that were recently conducted, the wildlife sanctuary has been home to some of the oldest and earliest river valley civilisations of the country, some of which were even older than the Indus Valley civilisation. These findings have now also added an archaeological aspect to the site, and the popularity of the sanctuary has now doubled. Interestingly, the first eco-tourism project in India, known as the Thenmala Eco-tourism Project, was also formulated in and around the Shenduruney Wildlife Sanctuary. Since animals are set free in the sanctuary and are allowed to live in their natural habitat, special care needs to be taken by the authorities to ensure that poaching and other illegal activities do not take place at the site. Thus, tourists are allowed to enter this restricted area only after they produce a permit, which they can obtain after getting proper verification done and following all the stated guidelines. Note that all visitors need to carry a valid ID proof along with the permit; else they will be denied entry into the sanctuary.
We finally reach the southernmost district in Kerala which is also the state capital of Thiruvanthapuram.
Commonly known by its former name of Trivandram, Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state and its most populous city. Located on the west coast of India near the extreme south of the mainland, Thiruvananthapuram is a major information technology hub in Kerala Referred to by Mahatma Gandhi as the Evergreen city of India, the city is characterised by its undulating terrain of low coastal hills. The present regions that constitute Thiruvananthapuram were ruled by the Ays until their fall in the 10th century. The city was then taken over by the Chera dynasty and in the 12th century, by the Kingdom of Venad. In the 17th century, king Marthanda Varma expanded the territory and founded the princely state of Travancore and made Thiruvananthapuram its capital. Following India’s independence in 1947, Thiruvananthapuram became the capital of Travancore-Cochin state and remained so till the new Indian state of Kerala was formed in 1956. The city takes its name from the Malayalam word thiru-anantha-puram, meaning The City of Lord Ananta, referring to the deity of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple located in the city. Thiruvananthapuram is also known in the literature, and popular reference as Ananthapuri derived from the Sanskrit word Syanandurapuram, meaning The City of Bliss in Carnatic kirtanas composed by Swathi Thirunal, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore. The city was officially referred to as Trivandrum, the anglicised name until 1991, when the government decided to reinstate the city’s original name. Thiruvananthapuram is a notable academic and research hub and being India’s largest city in the deep south, it is strategically prominent. Thiruvananthapuram is a major tourist centre, known for the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, the backwaters of Poovar and Anchuthengu and its Western Ghats tracts of Ponmudi and the Agastyamala.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple: One of the 108 Divya Desams, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is embellished in gold-plated covering and the temple is opened only to Hindus. Dedicated to Lord Padmanabha, one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the principal centres of Vaishnava worship in the dharma of Vaishnavism. Built as a replica of the Adikesavaperumal Temple in Thiruvattar, the Padmanabhaswamy temple is well-preserved from antiquity. Although the origin of this temple still remains a mystery, devotees believe it to have existed since the first day of the Kali Yuga, which was 5000 years ago. The Padmanabhaswamy temple also has a mention in the Bhagwad Gita where the scripture state that Balarama, the older brother of Lord Krishna frequented the temple, bathed in the Padmatheertham and also made several offerings the deity here. The architecture of the temple can be described to be a fusion of the Kerala style and the Dravidian Templestyle which can be found in many nearby temples. One main characteristic of this type of architectural design are high walls. The temple also houses a sanctum sanctorum or the garbagriha on a stone slab. The main deity of the temple is an 18-feet-long idol. The entire construction has been carried out with precision in stone and bronze with beautiful murals and paintings adorning its walls. A broad corridor extends from the eastern side and is said to have 365 and one-quarter of granite stone pillars spectacularly carved with ornate designs. Another attraction is the Navagraha Mandapa, which is a ceiling displaying the nine planets.
In the temple, Sri Padmanabha reclines majestically on the serpent Anantha, which has five hoods facing inwards forming an umbrella over the deity’s head, signifying contemplation. This is known as the Ananatha-Sayanam posture, the posture of eternal sleep, Yogi-Nindra, on the serpent. The idol rests its right hand over a Shiva Lingam while surrounded by the great goddesses Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi, the Goddess of Earth. Lord Brahma emerges on a lotus from the idol’s naval.
The story behind the Padmanabhaswamy Temple begins with the sage, Divakar Muni who was a staunch believer in Lord Vishnu and also deeply meditated in his name. One day the Muni noticed a child and felt paternal love towards it, he never wished to let the child out of his sight, and thus pleaded the kid to never leave him. The child agreed, but on one condition, that he must always be treated with love and respect. In failing to do so, the child said that he would disappear and never return. The eager sage agreed and took care of the child and fondly tolerated the child’s tantrums and mischief. Once when Divakar Muni was meditating, the child began mishandling the salagram, an instrument used by the Muni to worship Lord Vishnu. Enraged by this incident, the sage shouted at the kid, upon which the latter began the run from Divakar Muni. However, before leaving the child told the sage, “If you wish to see me again, you will find me again in Ananthankaadu”, which is a present temple situated behind the present Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum. This episode made the Muni realise that the child was an extraordinary being, and thus set on a mission to find the kid again. He gave up food, rest and sleep and continued along the route the child had taken. He spotted the child at a distance disappearing into a tree. When he neared, this tree fell and took the form of Shree Maha Vishnu in a divine avatar which was about 8 miles long. Terrified by this sudden manifestation, Divakar Muni requested Lord Vishnu to retract to his original self so that the former could worship him. Vishnu agreed and condensed three times the length of the Sanyasi’s Yoga Dand. The sage immediately offered the Lord a raw mango in a coconut shell, which is a continued daily tradition in the temple even now. Lord Vishnu instructed that any devotion in the form of prayers or worship to him must be performed by Tulu Brahmins, which happens to be the reason why more than half the priests at the temple are from the Tulu region.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of India sent a seven-member team in the presence of the Head Trustee of the Travancore Trust of Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy to open the six vaults that were locked inside the temple. When these chambers were opened, everyone was awestruck. The chambers contained sacks of diamonds, piles of priceless gems, hundreds of gold statues, numerous gold idols, heaps of gold utensils, thousands of gold coins from different nations and pricey ancient weaponry. The priceless items found weighed over 1 ton of pure gold and diamonds and were worth more than 1000 billion dollars. Many gold statues that were found were over 9 feet in height and studded with precious gems. Colossal solitaire diamonds lay in the vault and were bigger than a human thumb. Gold and diamond necklaces were about 18 feet long, and heaps of solid gold coconut shells were discovered that weighed more than 66 pounds. The temple vaults are labelled for documentation purposes. There are A, B, C, D, E and F vaults, all of which except Vault B are opened at least 8 times annually. Famous historians, priests and archaeologists believe that the mysterious contents of this vault are extremely sacred and it may be risky to unveil. The chamber is believed to have been sealed by the Siddha Purushas or the Ever-Ready Male Devotees of the 16th century using the Naga Bandham or the Snake Guard. The door of Vault B which is guarded by snakes can be opened only through a knowledgable sage who knows well about the Naga Bandham. The Muni would have to chant the Garuda Mantram or the Eagle Chant to open the door, which would only easily open then. Any attempt to open the door using machinery or technology is believed to own the potential to wreck the whole country.
For visitors wanting to pray in the temple, there are strict clothing restrictions. Trousers, half pants, bermudas, denim are not allowed for any gender. Women should wear sarees or salwar kameez and men should be dressed wear traditional mundus or dhotis. The temple’s morning darshan timings are from 03:15 to 04:15 am which is the Nirmalya Darshanam and then from 06:30 to 7 am and 8:30 to 09:15 am. The temple open again in the evening from 5 to 6:15 pm and again from 6:45 to 7:20 pm. You can get a special darshan for INR 150 and if you want prasad or offerings with the special darshan, it will cost you INR 180.
Karikkakom Chamundi Devi Temple: A 600 year old temple, the Karikkakom Sree Chamundi Devi Temple is set in dense green environs with the tall lush palms enveloping it from all sides. The peculiarity of this temple is that it worships all the three forms of Goddess Chamundi: Maha Chamundi, Rakhta Chamundi and Bala Chamundi. During ancient times, kings chose this temple as the place for bringing justice and punishing wrong doers. The accused were brought to stand in front of Rakhta Chamundidevi’s sanctum, put 21 coins in the nada and asked to say the truth. It was believed that the goddess would treat those who were honest and punish those who lied, and hence, nobody would dare to lie. During the Pongala festival, millions of women gather at the temple for this seven-day celebration at the end of which the enormous idol of the goddess is carried around the temple in a beautiful golden chariot. The special diet during this seven-day festival is a unique blend of rice, ghee, coconut and jaggery made in small earthen pots and is a real treat for the taste buds. The opulent Chamundi Devi Temple is colossal and houses the sanctums of many goddesses. The highlight and the principal deity is a gorgeous Panchahola idol of Goddess Karikkakom who is a reincarnation of Goddess Chamundi. Since Chamundi Devi herself is the ferocious form of Goddess Kali, you will also find Goddess Kali’s idol here. To the right of the main shrine is the Rakhta Chamundi shrine where justice was imparted in the olden days. Here, the deity is worshipped as a wall painting and not an idol. Rakhta Chamundi is the fierce and aggressive form of Goddess Chamundi and legend says that if offerings and prayers are made to this goddess, she will grant your most ardent wish, bless you with prosperity and even cure the most chronic diseases. There is also a shrine of Bala Chamundi, which is the childhood form of the goddess. It is said that couples who have been unable to conceive a child pray to the goddess and present offerings like toys and cradles, the goddess will bless them with a child. People seek the blessings of the goddess to cure stubborn illnesses in children too. To the north of the temple, not too far away, is a small and cosy house called the Guru Mandiram. This house assumes great importance because it is believed to be the ancestral home of the Yogiswaran or sage who first brought the devi to the temple. Other deities worshipped at the temple are Sastha, Ganapati, Yakshiyamma, Bhuvaneshvari, Ayiravalli and Yogeshwara. The temple is open daily from 5 to 11:30 am and again from 5 to 8 pm.
Attukal Temple: A temple which has a mention in the Guinness World Book record when over 37 lakh women offered pongala at this temple at once, making it the destination of the largest gathering of women for a religious activity, the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple popularly known as the Sabarimala for women, this temple draws a massive throng of women each year during the famous Attukal Pongala festival. Rich in cultural heritage and adorned by Tamil architecture, this temple whose principal deity is Goddess Bhagavaty is said to bless her devotees with progeny, heath, wealth and in all, a bountiful life. The temple’s Attukal Pongala Festival is a huge hit in the south, and its celebration is eagerly awaited by the locals. The story behind the history of this temple is quite an interesting one and revolves around an ardent devotee of the Goddess Bhagavathy named Kannagi. Once, Kannagi was on her way to Kodungallur and Attukal fell in her route. When she reached Attukal, she found the Killi river blocking her way. As Kannagi was trying to figure out how to cross the river, she found an old man performing religious rituals at the banks of the river. This man was none other than the head of the Mulluveetil family, an influential family of the city. Kannagi knew that he could help her and so, she transformed into a little girl and asked the old man to help her cross the river. The Karanavar or the head of the family was taken aback by the charisma, charm and glow of the little girl. He at once knew that this was no ordinary child. He willingly took the girl to the other side and requested her to grace his humble abode. The entire family started preparing to give Kannagi a grand welcome. However, the little girl disappeared before they could receive her and left everyone disappointed and perplexed. That night, Kannagi arrived in the Karanavar’s dream and asked him to build her an abode in the close by grove, or as they called it, Kavu. She informed him that when he visits that location, he will find three gold lines in the spot she wants her abode built in; and to the Karanavar’s surprise, he found the gold lines exactly where she had pointed! The Karanavar did not waste any time in starting this holy project and within no time, had erected what is now the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The temple can be visited from 4:30 am to 12:30 pm and again from 6:45 to 8:30 pm.
Aazhimala Siva Temple: Named because it rests right on the golden shore of the Arabian sea on a slightly elevated platform, the Aazhimala Siva Temple in Kazhivoor which translates to Aazhi meaning sea and Mala means hill is devoted to Lord Shiva. The annual festival of the temple is held between January and February where thousands of devotees come together to offer the Naranga Vilakku which is essentially an oil lamp that is lit on a lemon. Since the Aazhimala Siva Temple is located on an elevated pitch, the temple provides a panoramic and simply astounding view of the mesmerizingly rhythmic waves of the Arabian Sea and the endless golden shore of the remarkable Aazhimala Beach. The Aazhimala Beach has beautifully adorned the background of this temple with its seamless turquoise waters and its glistening golden shore. Since the temple rests right on the shore of the marvellous Aazhimala Beach, one should take the time to go around the coastline and explore the beach, especially during sunrise and sunset. The view of the giant ball of fire slowly sinking into the horizon and making the entire skyline blush in the shades of deep magenta is one that you do not want to miss. The temple is open from 5 to 9 am and again from 5 to 8 pm daily.
Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple: A popular temple constructed in a blend of Dravidian and South Indian architecture, the Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple is said to fulfil the deepest wishes and fix the stubbornest problems of devotees who visit him. The temple is famous for two reasons: its exceptional jet-black colour, a rare colour for temples in India, and its unique Ganesh idol. The position of the idol that sits in this temple is different from most others. Here, Lord Ganesh relaxes languorously with only his right knee folded under him as against his typically seen standing position or his seated position with crossed legs. The most common vazhipadu or offering made to Lord Ganesh here is an open husked coconut which is cracked right at the temple. Breaking open this coconut symbolises overcoming any hurdles or obstacles that lie in the way of the fulfilment of one’s innermost desires. There are two idols of Lord Ganesh inside the shrine, one made of pure granite and the other made entirely of gold. Even though Lord Ganesh is the principal deity of this temple, there are stupefying idols of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ayyappa, Goddess Durga, Nagaraja and the Brahmarakshaks. The idol of Lord Vishnu is a unique one where Lord Vishnu majestically reclines on the serpent Anantha which is made out of a blend of Kudusarkara, herbs and Salagramam and is decorated with gold jewels and other expensive stones. Another popular ritual at the temple is that once in every 6 years, a 56-day long Murajapam is performed to please the great Lord Ganesh. The festival is carried out by many priests who gather at a yagna and perform Vedic chants through days and nights. It is concluded by lighting over one lakh lamps which float through the night sky like countless twinkling stars- truly a magnificent sight to watch. The history of the erection of this temple dates back to the time when the Travancore Kingdom army as at war on the Padmanabhapuram front. The regiment was on guard at the fort but was continually harassed by a Yaskhi, a relentless demon. Every soldier was petrified of encountering this demon. One of these soldiers was an ardent devotee of Lord Ganesh and believed that the lord is always with him. When he was stationed at the fort, he was fearless because he knew that Lord Ganesh would protect him. When he went to the nearby river for his bath, he was surprised to stumble upon the idol of Lord Ganesh. The soldier considered this to be a good sign and decided to keep the idol with him at all times. The entire Travancore army was left undisturbed and unaffected by the Yakshi forever. Acknowledging the limitless power of this idol, a temple was constructed where the soldier had found the idol. However, when the headquarters of the Travancore Kingdom was moved to Trivandrum in 1795, they decided to move this holy idol with them. The present temple was erected in 1860 by the then reigning king Maharaja Ayilyam Thirunal, and unlike other temples, the Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple was maintained and looked after by the army. Morning darshan can be had from 4:30 to 10:45 am and evening darshan from 5 to 8:30 pm.
CSI Christ Church: A beautiful gothic church in Palayam, the CSI Church is enveloped in the canopy of lush, dense trees, it is the oldest church in the city and was consecrated in early 1859. This church was built by the early Christian settlers of Munnar and has a 1000-year-old cemetery in its premises. The main architectural style of the church is essentially ancient Gothic. The entire structure is made of beautiful and authentic rough-hewn granite with natural non plastered walls and is adorned with traditional memorial brass plaques. The highlight of the architecture are the artistic and extremely alluring glass windows that depict the biblical characters and saints. The most popular stained window is called the Good Shepherd. The windows on the walls have been cleverly designed to depict the twelve disciples in the Bible and their respective symbols. Many inscriptions and carvings are drawn out to convey and commemorate the life of Lord Jesus. The antique furnishings of this church are truly breathtaking. Some of these include the Pulpit, the Altar, the Lectern, the brass altar railings, and an immaculately carved teakwood screen.
Kuthiramalika Palace: Built in the 1840s by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, the Kuthira Malika Palace which literally translates to Mansion of Horses, and it has been named so because of the 122 horses that adorn the many pillars that support the southern roof of this majestic structure. The main idea behind building this palace was to preserve and promote the many traditional art forms of India, mainly the south. One of the most attractive characteristics of the architecture at the palace is that it is embellished by the traits of traditional Kerala-style design, typical to the Travancore era. You are welcomed into the palace by the 122 wooden horses that are carved into the brackets of the palace’s grand pillars, sloping roofs, pillared passages, outlined courtyards and overhanging eaves- all distinctive characteristics of ancient Kerala-style architecture. Made of teakwood, rosewood, marble and granite and is said to have been built by a whopping 5000 Vishwabrahmins in 4 years, a noteworthy aspect of the architecture of the houses 16 main rooms, and no two rooms are alike. In all, the Kuthira Malika Palace houses 60 rooms of which only 20 are open to visitors. The floor is constructed, believe it or not, by egg-whites, charcoal and limestone. This keeps it smooth and cool even in the hottest temperatures. A part of the Kuthira Malika Palace has been converted into a museum where people can find exquisite ancient antiquities of the Travancore Dynasty. The museum houses artifacts like the ethnic jewelry that was once worn by the queens, wooden paintings and carvings, armory and idols made of the purest metal. The exhibits on display include 14 life-size Kathakali figurines, tall and elegant Belgian and Italian mirrors, glamorous and humungous crystal chandeliers, paintings, a giant harpoon specially brought in from Belgium, numerous armaments, antique musical instruments, impeccably designed traditional furniture, and marvellous Greek statues. Two of the royal thrones of the Travancore kings is also on display here. One of these thrones has been built completely from ivory- 24 elephant tusks to be precise. The other one is made of Bohemian crystals and is decorated with the Travancore emblem, conch on the head. Don’t forget to see the famous illusion portrait of Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma painted by Svetoslav Roerich. The peculiarity of this portrait is that no matter what angle you look at the painting from, you will always find the eyes and the feet following you. However, the most interesting attraction here is the Musical Tree. This tree produces 8 different sounds when tapped in different locations. The annual music festival, the Swathi Sangeethotsavam is conducted right in palace premises when thousands of people throng here to watch performances of leading classical musicians. Closed on Mondays, the palace is open from 8:30 am to 1 pm and then again from 3 to 5:30 pm on other days. Entrance fees are INR 10 and INR 3 for Indian adults and children and INR 20 for foreigners. Photography fees are INR 15.
Observatory: Situated on a hill at an elevation of about 60 metres above sea level and the highest point in the city, this astronomical observatory offers exquisite views of the surroundings and the city as a whole. It was built in 1837 and is part of the Department of Physics, University of Kerala today. It is fast developing as one of India’s most important astronomical centres with modern facilities like an 11-inch telescope, CCD camera, sun workstations, image processing facility and partnership with national programmes. The observatory was a brainchild of Sri Swathi Tirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore who was an ardent follower of astronomy. He took a particular interest in equipping it with the best instruments available in Europe at that time. Along with astronomical equipment, meteorological observations were also paid attention. The instruments initially procured for the Observatory include a transit telescope with five feet focal length and four inches aperture, a transit clock, an altitude and azimuth instrument having 18 and 15-inch circles and powerful telescopes. Today, computational facilities, a library and audio-video facilities are available for students of the University. Sky-watching programs for students, teachers and the general public are organised in the evenings. The observatory is open from 9 am to 5 pm and is closed on Sundays and national holidays. Entrance fees are INR 10 for adults and INR 5 for children.
Napier Museum: Renowned for its fine collection of sculptures, paintings and musical instruments, the Napier Museum is located in the heart of the city and is also an architectural marvel established around 150 years ago. In the best possible words, the Napier Museum is a delight for adults and children alike. The museum houses one of the oldest zoological gardens in India in its premises. The museum itself, based on the Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture is one of the most visited art and natural history museums in India. With works of famous artists, such as Raja Ravi Varma, and the celebrated Russian theosophist, Nicholas Roerich, and specimens of Tanjore and Mughal art forms, history was never more fun for those willing to delve into it.
Sri Chitra Art Gallery: A perfect place for art lovers, the Sri Chitra Art Gallery houses some of the famous work of Raja Ravi Verma. His western form and style of paintings depicting Indian lives are an attraction here. Other art objects belonging to the Mughals, Rajputs and Tanjore art schools can also be seen.
Priyadarshini Planetarium: Regarded as one of the best planetariums in the whole of South India, the Priyadarshini Planetarium is India’s first titled domed planetarium. The auditorium is equipped with an advanced GM-11 starfield projector that can simulate the star-studded sky from any location on the entire planet, of any given time and on any day 12500 years in the past or 12500 years into the future. The planetarium runs shows in two languages, English and Malayalam. The Malayalam shows run at 10:30 am, 3 and 5 pm. The only English show of the day runs at 12 noon daily. There is also a designated sky observatory open to visitors on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30 to 8 pm. The other main attractions are the many 3D and 6D shows, the thrillarium, the children’s park, laser shows played every evening and the very famous musical fountain. Children between the ages of 3 and 10 pay INR 40 per person while adults who are older than 11 pay INR 75 per person. For a student or children’s group, the discounted ticket rate is INR 30 per person. For the Night Sky Observatory, you pay INR 20 per adult and INR 15 per child and for other 3D and 6D shows, the ticket rates are INR 25 per adult and INR 15 per child. If you want to catch the laser show at 7 pm or witness the beauty of the musical fountain, you have pay a nominal rate of INR 30 per adult and INR 20 per child.
Vellayani Lake: Also known as Vellayani Kayal, Vellayani Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Kerala, situated in the Trivandrum city. The water from the lake is mostly used for irrigation and drinking purposes and for harvesting lotus flowers.
Agasthyakoodam: Also known as Agastya Mala Peak, Agastyakoodam is the second highest peak in Kerala with a height of 1868 metres. Located within the premises of Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Agastyakoodam is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve and boasts of surreal natural beauty. Nestled in Sahyadris of Western Ghats, the slopes of the peak are carpeted in purple hues of orchids. Home to diverse species of fauna and rare species of medicinal herbs, the region is a hotspot for avifauna and exotic birds. The spot is considered a haven for birdwatchers. Besides, since it is a protected zone, you can spot nature at its best, without any commercial interference. The colossal peak is also a major Hindu pilgrimage spot for the devotees of the Hindu sage Agastya, on whose name the peak has been named. There is also a statue of him at the top where the Hindus can offer puja and prayers.
Neyyar Dam & Wildlife Sanctuary: Famous for its Lion and Deer Safari, the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a treat for nature enthusiasts. The park houses a crocodile farm and elephant rehabilitation centre. Ask for a guided tour of the sanctuary which is quite informative.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary: Open all year round, the Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary is located along the catchment area of the Peppara Dam on the Karamana River. The sanctuary rich in flora and fauna offers a natural habitat to around 43 species of mammals, 233 species of birds, 46 species of reptiles, 13 species of amphibians and 27 species of fishes. The commonly found animals here are tiger, leopard, sloth bear, elephant, deer, Bonnet Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Lilgiri Tahr, etc.
Varkala: A coastal town in the southern part of Kerala known for the unique 15m high Northern Cliff adjacent to the Arabian Sea, Varkala is popular for its hippie culture, shacks on the cliff serving great seafood and playing global music and the samadhi of Kerala’s saint Sree Narayana Guru. Varkala is also known for Jardana Swami Temple, also known as Dakshin Kashi. Varkala was once known as Udaya Marthandapuram, after the 16th century Travancore king Udaya Marthanda Varma, who contributed immensely to the development of this little coastal town. Sometimes referred to as the Southern Varanasi, Varkala has some fascinating legends associated with its historical origins. According to the popular myth, King Pandyan built the famous 2000-year-old Janardhan Swami temple here as a redemption for his sins, as instructed by Lord Brahma. Another story tells the tale of a group of pilgrims who sought Lord Narada’s help in atoning their sins. The Lord flung his loincloth or valkalam, which landed on the seaside, thus giving the town its name. The pilgrims had to offer prayers here, giving rise to the tradition of Papanasam or redemption of sins by dipping in the holy waters of the sea. Varkala has some of the best pristine beaches, hills, lakes, forts, lighthouses, natural fisheries and springs, all of which make this town a little paradise.
Kallar: A scenic location of small, gorgeous and less polluted hamlets situated on the way from Ponmudi hill station to Thiruvananthapuram, Kallar provides a perfect weekend getaway in the lap of nature. The term Kallar has been derived from the two words, kallu which means stone and aru meaning river, thus getting its name from river Kallar flowing nearby, known for beautiful round boulders and pebbles, flowing primarily in the upper reaches of its course. It lies on the bank of Vamanapuram River, which is a tributary of Neyyar River.
Poovar: A small rustic town situated 27 kms from Thiruvananthapuram with unspoilt, unexplored golden sand beaches and beautiful backwaters, Poovar is known as a fishing village. The tranquil Poovar island lies between the Arabian Sea and the Neyyar River. Hiring a boat, especially during the sunset that will take you through the mangrove forest of backwaters is a must-do activity. The boat ride costs around INR 3000- INR 4000. The town has some of the beautiful resorts and hotels that are known for the hospitality they offer. Poovar beach is secluded and is only accessible by a boat. Swimming is allowed here throughout the year except for the monsoon months. There is an interesting story about how Poovar got its name. When Marthanda Varma Maharaja was declared as the successor of the King, Ettuveetil Pillamar, the other two sons with the help of Madampis tried to seize power. Therefore, the Maharaja had to run away and he ended up in Poovar. Moosa Marikar, a prosperous and noble businessman, provided him with a safe place. He also helped the Maharaja to regain his lost kingdom. During his stay at Poovar, Marthanda Varma was fascinated by the beautiful red flowers, from the Kovala trees which flanked the banks of the Neyyar River. The flowers floating in the river seemed like a red carpet. It is believed that the Maharaja described the river as ‘Poo-aar’ meaning ‘a stream of flowers’ and this was how Poovar got its name.
This ends this mini series on Kerala. God’s own Country has some incredible places to offer visitors and I am really looking forward to exploring this state once things get better and we can start travelling again. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoy researching and writing about it.
The name Kottayam is a combination of the words kotta and akam in Malayalam, which together mean the interior of a fort. The current Kottayam district was previously part of the state of Travancore. Kottayam has been involved in a number of political movements, including the Malayali Memorial movement whose goal was more representation for Travancoreans in the civil service. The Vaikom Satyagraha, a protest against caste discrimination, took place here and the district also participated in the protests for responsible government in Travancore, which ended with the overthrow of Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the Diwan of Travancore. With a network of rivers, backwaters, ancient religious places, and hill stations, Kottayam is a local, domestic and international tourist destination.
Subrahmanya Temple: An ancient temple considered to be created by Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma of Travancore Kingdom, the Subrahmanyaa Temple is located in Perunna Village about 21 km from Kottayam. The temple is installed with the idols of Devasenapthi, an incarnation of Lord Murugan apart from the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Maha Ganapathi and Lord Ayyappa. The temple is usually flocked with devotees in the month of Dhanu which is mid October.
Saraswathy temple: A temple dedicated to the Goddess of learning and art i.e. Goddess Saraswathy, this temple is located Panachikad Village. The temple houses various paintings and sculptures that depict the Indian mythology. The temple is popularly referred to as Mookambika Temple and an annual ceremony of Vidhyarambham which is a Hindu tradition, which introduces young children into the world of knowledge, letters, and the process of learning. This ceremony can be performed for a child between the age of 2-5years. This ritual is usually conducted on the last day of Navratri, which is known as Vijayadashami.
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple: Located at a distance of about 10 kms from Kottayam in Kumarakom, the Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is a holy place for Hindus. Considered to be the oldest temple in Kerala, the temple is believed to have been a common site of worship by the Pandavas and Sage Vyasa in the ancient days. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the shrine is popular for its spectacular murals, beautiful frescos and excellent wood carvings made in the 16th century, which are borrowed from the classic epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. The age-old lamp at the entrance of the temple is fed with oil by devotees every day; it was believed to have been lighted 450 years ago and has been burning ever since. Renovated in 1542 AD, the shrine is popular for its magnificent gopuram, the monumental gatehouse tower, roofs covered in copper plates, a golden flagstaff and outstanding wall paintings. The temple premises consist of a sanctum sanctorum, the chief idol of Lord Shiva, and smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapathi and Lord Shasta. One of the wealthiest Devaswoms in Kerala, this temple is thronged by tourists and pilgrims all through the year. However, it literally comes to life during the grand festival of Arattu celebrated in the month of February – March. The temple is open from 4 am to 12:30 pm and again from 5 to 8 pm.
Chottanikkara Temple: Located around 50 kms from the town of Kottayam near Ernakulam, Chottanikkara is a very revered temple in Kerala. Popular for its spectacular architecture, the shrine stands out to be the ultimate testimonial for the primordial vishwakarma sthapathis or wooden sculptures in carving out this temple. Sree Mahamaya Bhagawati or the Aadiparashakthi, believed to be the supreme mother Goddess in Hindu religion, also known as the Goddess of Power presides the temple. Popularly known as Chottanikkara Devi, the Goddess is worshipped in three forms at three different times of the day. In the morning, she is worshipped as Maha Saraswati, decked in white; in the afternoon, she is worshipped as Maha Lakshmi, clad in crimson; and in the evening, she is worshipped as Sree Durga, draped in blue. Besides the Chottanikkara Devi, Lord Shiva, Ganesha and Lord Dharmasastha or Ayyappa are also worshipped at the temple. The shrine is a popular pilgrimage spot of the Hindus and is highly revered by the devotees. It is believed that Chottanikkara Devi possesses supernatural powers and can cure any disease; for this reason, a lot of patients suffering from mental illnesses visit the holy temple. Guruthi Pooja is an important ritual performed at the temple every evening to invoke Goddess Mahakali. The pooja is done at the Keezhkkaavu temple within the complex itself. The Keezhkkaavu Devi is believed to be a fiercer form of Mother Kali; she was born out of the third eye of Lord Shiva to kill the demon king Daruka. The temple follows are strict dress code. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly preferably in traditional Indian clothes. Men are made to take off their upper garments including their shirts and vests. Women should ideally be wearing traditional sarees or salwar suits. In any case, their shoulders, arms and legs should be covered. The temple is open from 4 am to 9 pm daily.
Kumaranalloor Bhagavathy Temple: Located at a distance of 4 kms from Kottayam in Kumaranalloor, the Kumaranalloor Devi Temple enshrines Bhagwathi- the mother Goddess. Considered as one of the most important Hindu temples among 108 Durgalayas or Devi temples spread across Kerala, the shrine is said to be 2400 years old as per historical, mythical and scientific sources. Sprawling over a vast area of 15000 square metres, the temple has a notable architectural pattern with a unique structure of nalambalam and sreekovil which is the sanctum sanctorum, both of which are rarely found in generic temple architecture. Believed to be an equivalent of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple by devotees, the Kumaranalloor Devi Temple was supposedly constructed by Lord Purshuram. The Goddess Kathyayani presides the temple complex and is worshipped in five different forms including Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Durga and Vana Durga. The temple is believed to be an ancient cultural centre, and is one of the 32 gramams made by Lord Parshuram. Originally, the shrine was called ‘Thingalkkadu’ which was later changed to ‘Indu Kananam’ . In some prehistoric books, the temple is called Mahishari kovil and some inscriptions trace the history of the temple to an 11th century AD Shiva temple. Much later, it was converted to a Durga Temple. The temple is open daily from 4 am to 12 noon and again from 5 to 8 pm.
Thirunakkara Mahadev Temple: A popular Hindu shrine and great example of the Kerala style of architecture, the Thirunakkara Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was established in 16th century by the king of Thekkumkur. The place is also adorned with several beautiful murals showcasing the Hindu themes. The festival of Aaraattu celebrated for 10 days witness several cultural performances of various art forms like Kathakali, Velakali and Mayilattom performed by professionals. The festival attracts devotees and tourists in large number to the temple.
Subramania Swami Temple: A beautiful temple depicting the Kerala style of architecture, the Subramania Swami Temple is located in a village called Kidangoor. Dedicated to Lord Subramaya Swami, the temple is mainly known for its annual festival that is held during the months of February and March for 10 days. During the festival one can see the performance of Chakiarkoothu by professional dancers and it attracts devotees from all over the state.
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid: Also popularly known as Taj Juma Masjid, the Thazhathangady Juma Masjid is a beautiful structure situated on the banks of River Meenachil. The shrine is said to have been established by the members of Jama-Athe 1959 and was completed in year 1964. The mosque building is famous for its charming wood carvings and structure. Once it served as a home to Muslims who came from different parts of Kerala, the residents followed Hanafi tradition back in 1947 under the leadership of Kottayam Sethu Masjid.
Tomb Of Saint Alphonsa: Located at a distance of 5 kms east of Pala in Bharananganam, the St. Mary’s Church holds the mortal remains of St. Alphonsa who lived between 1910 and 1946. Born as Anna Muttathupadathu, St. Alphonsa was an Indian religious sister and educator. She was the first Indian woman to be canonised as a Saint by the Catholic Church and also the first canonised saint in Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in India. Her death anniversary falls on 28th of July which is a highly revered day when the church is thronged by devotees in huge numbers to visit to pay homage to the saint and to seek her blessings. The museum adjacent to the chapel holds her belongings including her books, cot, umbrella among other belongings. A copy of her sermon is also available which reads, “Alphonsa is among the few great souls who lived in India; who have achieved greatness in God’s sight”. Next to it is her room where she spent several years of her life. Across the chapel is the two storeyed building which was originally the Papal podium, which is now surrounded by a stadium and well-maintained terraced garden. The complex also houses a souvenir shop which sells books, rosaries and pictures to take home. The tomb is open from 6:30 am to 11 am, Mondays to Fridays and from 8:15 am to 3 pm, Saturdays and Sundays.
Poonjar Palace: A huge majestic palace bound by massive walls is the Poonjar Palace located in Meenachil. The palace is adorned with a fascinating collection of various type of furniture and antiques which includes grand chandeliers, jewelry boxes, statues, grain measurer, weapons and palm leaf engravings. Visitors also see a beautiful sculpture of Nataraja, a palanquin and a thoni for Ayurvedic massages crafted out of a single piece of wood.
Discs & Machines – Sunny’s Gramophone Museum: Located at an hour’s drive from Kottayam, Sunny’s Gramophone Museum also known as Discs & Machines, is a unique private venture which is one of its kind in the country. The two floored depository is a storehouse of over one hundred thousand rare records and about 260 gramophones, phonographs and record players. Established as a result of passion of Mr. Sunny Mathew, a retired officer of the Kerala Forest Department, the museum is a treasure trove of vintage cars, vinyl records, gramophones, valve radios, tape recorders, olden day telephones, sewing machines etc. of the bygone era. The building was constructed with the objective to preserve the rich antique objects and make them available for the future generations to see and study from. The museum houses rare gramophone records from the period as old as 1900s and 1940s; the earliest in his collection dates to 1897. Most of the instruments still function perfectly and Mr. Sunny personally takes care of them all. On request, he even plays them for you and can even give you a brief context of the instrument. The verve, enthusiasm and knowledge of the gentleman is beyond par. Besides exploring the artistic and heritage excellence of this place, it is also an ideal spot to research and learn about 20th century music. The museum is open only on Sundays from 2 to 7 pm and has no entry fee.
Marmala Waterfalls: Located at a distance of few kms from Erattupetta in Kottayam inside a private rubber estate, the Marmala Waterfalls are popularly known as the enchantress of the jungle. Plummeting from a height of 200 feet, the unblemished clear waters create an aura of mist around them. The tantalising waterfalls splash into a 12 feet pond and run down to join the river Teekoy. Replete with timber trees on the green-carpeted mountains, the clear cascading waters offer a sight like no other. Slightly veiled amidst thick bushes and blue hills, the location can only be reached by a short trek on the hillside. Blessed with a rich biodiversity, an emerald forest cover and an all around utopian environment, the waterfalls is the perfect place to get away from the din and chaos of the city and spend some moments of solitude to reinvigorate and rejuvenate. Besides, the mesmerising natural environment provides plenteous opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture those picture perfect moments in their cameras and their lives forever. The waterfalls also offer trekking opportunities. However, the rough terrain is very difficult to trek; the road is slippery and full of rocky obstacles and it is advisable that only experienced trekkers take up the challenge. The best time to visit Marmala Falls is during early monsoon when the place comes alive.
Thangal Hill: Popular for its cascading waterfalls, blue mountains, meandering rivers, clear waters and misty environment, Vagamon is a quaint little hilltown bordering the districts of Kottayam and Idukki. Three mighty hills known as Thangal, Murugan and Kurisumala form the essence of the town. Colloquially known as Thangal Para, the Thangal Hills are an important pilgrimage spot for Muslims, located barely 5 kms from Vagamon. The whopping boulder at the top of the hill houses the mausoleum of Sheikh Fariduddin and is visited by thousands of Muslim pilgrims annually during the festival of Urs. Just below the rock boulder at the bottom of the hill, is a mosque used by the devotees and the locals to offer their prayers. Surrounded by emerald green meadows and verdant tea- plantations, the hilltop also provides some awe-striking panoramic vistas of the valley below lined with trees of pepper, vanilla, rubber and coffee. Thangal Para makes for an ideal weekend getaway for couples and families alike, hushed in the serenity and quietude of nature’s bliss. Besides, the summit is also popular amidst the mountaineers, trekkers and adventure seekers as the hill provides some wonderful trekking opportunities both for the beginners and experts. The crevices and crannies in the terrain enable both novices and pros to try out their luck here. Legend goes to say that about 800 years ago, Husrat Sheikh Fariduddin Baba- a sufi saint visited this place along with his 40 followers. After reaching the hill, he decided to stay here and preach to the locals. His teachings became widely popular and he stayed on till he took his last breath at the same place. He was buried at the hilltop and a mausoleum was constructed in his memory by his followers. The stone boulder is supposedly the place where he used to grind his paan or betel leaves.
Elaveezha Poonchira: Located at a distance of 15 kms from Thodupuzha and 60 kms from Kottayam, Elaveezha Poonchira is a small quaint hill station. Perched at a height of 3200 feet above the sea level, it can be reached by a jeep ride through the unpaved rocky mountainous terrain. Literally translating to a flowery lake where no leaves fall, the place has acres of barren land without any plantation or trees with a perennial lake, Poonchira. The area receives heavy rainfall, and the entire valley turns into a river during monsoons. A well kept secret of Kerala, Elaveezha Poonchira is replete with rocky cliffs, contours and crevices and hence, lures a lot of trekkers, mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts to the spot to try their hand at trekking. You can either embark on the tried and tested terrains or pave new trails for yourself. The mountain peak also offers an enthralling view of the Malankara Dam in addition to providing several captivating vistas of the surrounding paradise. Besides, it has traces of burial chambers, tribal settlements and several caves including Nilavara, Pandavan Guha etc., which are a personal favourite among the tourists. It is believed that the place was a temporary abode for the Pandavas for a short while. One day, while they were living here, their wife Draupadi went to take a bath in the pond. Some devas saw her and were enamoured by her beauty. To prevent any kind of misdeed from happening, Lord Indra built hills in the form of screen to block the view. The pond thus became a dam surrounded by hills. Since the hills were tree- less, there were never any astray leaves; hence the place came to be known as Elaveezha Poonchira. Any time of the year is a good time to visit Elaveezha Poonchira except monsoons. Rainy Season can prove very fatal as the entire valley gets immersed in water. The roads also turn slippery and any journey should be avoided.
Kottathavalam: A fascinating cave carved out of rock surface is Kottathavalam lying on the top of a Murugan Hills at Kurisumala. The cave is considered to be the resting place for the Madura Royal family. The cave is adorned with various sculptures of Gods and Goddesses along with the sculptures of weapons used in the ancient times giving us a glance into the amazing past.
Illikkal Kallu: Located at a height of 6000 ft above the sea level in the Western Ghats of Kottayam, Illikkal Kallu is a major tourist attraction. Situated in Moonnilavu Village, the nearest city is Teekoy. A prominent and unique feature of this peak is that half the boulder of the majestic rock has fallen apart with the remaining half standing sturdy. Surrounded by colossal green hills, the offbeat destination boasts of immaculate environs, enchanting panoramic vistas and an all around utopian atmosphere. In addition to the surreal natural beauty, the sublime view of the Arabian Sea in the near horizon as a thin blue stroke, is a sight beyond description. One of the highest peaks in the vicinity, Illikkal Kallu comprises of three different hills- each rising to at least 4000 ft above the sea level. Boasting of mystical surroundings, hills imbued with a green blanket and an overall idyllic setting, the destination is blessed with bounteous natural bliss and is still unexploited and untapped by tourism. The first one shaped like a mushroom is called Kuda Kallu which means umbrella shaped rock. Neela Koduveli, the blue flower grows here. The herb is known to have medicinal properties and is one of the most sought after plants in the world. The locals believe that the plant has supernatural powers which can increase wealth and ensure a better harvest in addition to curing any disease on the face of the earth. The second boulder has a small hunch on the side and is called Koonu Kallu which translates to hunchback rock. Across this rock is the notorious yet exciting Narakapalam, commonly known as the Bridge to Hell. This half foot wide bridge connects the first boulder to the second. Walking this narrow bridge is extremely thrilling. Besides the fear of height and danger, the bridge offers a mesmerising scenery of the surrounding haven, verdant green valleys and the merging of the skyline in the mountains below. Above all, the sunset view as seen from the peak is absolutely riveting; the moon rises adjacently as the orange sun goes down. Also, the winding roads leading to the majestic boulders can give an adrenaline rush to all the adventure junkies. Avoid the monsoons when visiting here as it can get extremely slippery and dangerous due to the possibility of landslides and landslips.
Vaikom: The oldest city in Kottayam, Vaikom lies very close to Kumarakom. The Vaikom Temple lies at the heart of the town and becomes very prominent during its Vaikom Ashtami celebrations during the month of November. This temple was constructed in the year 1594. It is also enclosed by a courtyard which is spread across 8 acres of land. The history of Vaikom can be traced back to the time when there existed a kingdom known as Venmalanadu of which Vaikom is a part. Later, Venmalanadu was broken down into Vadakkumkoor and Thekkumkoor. Vaikom became a part of the dynasty of Vadakkumkoor. In 1742, Vaikom became a part of the Travancore after the Maharaja of Travancore took over Vadakkumkoor and merged it into his kingdom. However, Vaikom became famous due to the Satyagraha which was held in there during the Indian Independence Movement.
Nattakom and Panachikad: Located south of Kottayam, Nattakom and Panachikad are two villages flanked by dense evergreen forests and several beautiful streams. The villages serves as a wholesome package for vacations offering its visitors an experience of famous Kerala’s Ayurvedic massages and recreational activities including fishing and swimming. One can also witness some of the exotic varieties of rare migratory birds in the area between November and February.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: Also popularly known as the Vembanad Bird Sanctuary, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a breathtaking and beautiful bird sanctuary that is located at Kumarakom about 15 km west of the town of Kottayam. Situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake in the Kerala Backwaters, this bird sanctuary is a favourite destination for many native as well as migratory birds, which makes the place a delight for bird watchers and nature lovers. The sanctuary is spread over an area of over 14 acres on the southern bank of the Kavanar River and is managed by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. The sanctuary initially developed in a rubber plantation and was known as the Baker’s Estate. While neighbouring areas such as Poothanpandi Kayal and Pathirmanal are also excellent locations for spotting some rare and exquisite birds, this sanctuary is home to local birds like owls, cuckoos, waterfowls and herons; as well as migratory birds like the Siberian Crane. Other birds are also spotted here during their respective migratory seasons, some of which come from the Himalayas, while others flock from Siberia. The walk through the Vembanad Bird Sanctuary, jumping over the puddles and walking through the muddy paths is a unique experience in itself. The sanctuary is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm and for entry fees, Indians pay INR 50 while foreigners pay INR 100. There is also a parking fee of INR 25 per vehicle.
Now let’s explore what Idukki has to offer.
Created by the spiltting of Kottayam district in 1972, Idukki lies amid the Western Ghats of Kerala. Though it is regarded as the second-largest district in the region, it has the lowest population density and the urban population is higher than the rural. Idukki is rich in forests and also known as the Spice Garden of Kerala. The name is derived from the Tamil and Malayalam word idukku meaning narrow gorge. This district has several protected areas including Periyar Tiger Reserve in the south, Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north and Pampadum Shola National Park to the south. These protected areas are well known for several threatened and endemic species including tiger, Nilgiri tahr, grizzled giant squirrel, Nilgiri wood-pigeon, elephant, gaur, sambar deer, purple frog and neelakurinji.
Kulamavu Dam:Situated in Kulamavu, the Kulamavu Dam is a gravity dam. The dam part of three dams dedicated to the Idukki Hydro Electric Power Plant that also encloses a manmade lake, this is a good place for some short sightseeing. Besides, Kulamavu dam is also part of the state’s largest river, Periyar’s power ventures. However, photography is not allowed here. There are occasional boating facilities at the lake here. Quite close to the dam are a few eating options.
Idukki Arch Dam: An engineering marvel, the Idukki Arch Dam is located is an arch dam with a double curvature and is built on River Periyar. The dam is constructed in a gorge between two hills, Kuravathi and Kuravan. It is at the height of about 550 feet and is a breathtaking sight in the otherwise rugged terrain along which has been built. Because of this height, it is one of the highest arch dams in Asia. Because of its massive size, the dam can be seen from quite some distance and the sight of the structure in between the granite hills is breathtaking. The surrounding is lush green, and the reservoir serves as a quick getaway for locals. As part of promoting hydel tourism, boating in the reservoir is open for tourists. The dam is open from 9 am to 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 25. You can hire a boat for INR 125.
Malankara Dam: A gravity dam built across the Thodupuzha River, the Malankara dam supports the irrigation of the region and has been constructed to use the tailwater coming from the Moolamattom powerhouse. Situated near Thodupuzha-Moolamattom Road, the reservoir and dam is a very famous tourist spot. The dam remains open to the tourists throughout the year and is a perfect place for fishing and boating. There is a park covering 15-acre land situated near the reservoir which is under construction. There is an artificial lake that has been created by the Malankara Dam across the waters from the tail-gate of the Moolamattom Power House. Since the dam remains unexplored by many, it has managed to retain its natural beauty. The dam is open from 8 am to 6 pm and does have any entry fee.
Cheruthoni Dam: The Cheruthoni Dam is 138 m tall and is the largest concrete gravity dam close to the Idukki Arch Dam. Constructed across the Periyar River, this third highest dam in the country was built in 1976 as a part of the Idukki Hydroelectric project along with two other dams namely Kulamavu and Idukki. The dam is looked after by the Kerala State Electricity Board and also rents out boats to engage in the two-hour cruise between Kulamavu and Idukki. On the way, visitors are spellbound by the beauty that this place offers and the enchanting views of the sunrise and sunset that one gets to experience from here. From the great height at which the Cheruthoni Dam is situated, one can view certain parts of the Kochi city on a clear day. However, one can reach the dam only by walking or via a jeep.
Mattupetti Dam: A strong gravity dam, the Mattupetty Dam was constructed for power generation and water conservation. Located in the Munar hills near the Anamudi peak, the dam is situated 1700 meters high. The green valleys and pleasant ambience surrounding make up for a captivating site. The reflection of the tea gardens into the water is the most beautiful part of the dam. Speed boating too is organized here by the Tourism Promotion Council of the district of Idukki. Other water sports organized include motor boats, paddle boats, and rowboats. Open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, the dam has an entry fee of INR 10 per person. If you want to ride a speed boat, the cost is INR 500 for upto 5 people for 15 minutes and INR 300 for upto 5 people for a normal boat for 15 minutes.
Cheeyappara Waterfalls: Located on the Kochi-Madurai Highway or National Highway 49, the Cheeyarappa Falls is an on-the-way tourist attraction. It falls between Munnar and Kochi. One of the largest waterfalls in the state the falls cascade through seven tiers of stones, these falls are a force of nature that you can not only see and experience but dip your toes into and enjoy. The surroundings of the waterfall complement its opulent natural splendour. Evergreen forests stretch out for as much as two acres around the falls, making it an active adventure and trekking spot. Several species of exotic plants and animals can be found in the neighbouring area, enclosed in the casket of a dense forest. At the height of 1000 feet above sea level, the Cheyyappara Falls are a part of a chain of waterfalls that descend from the Deriyar River that originates in the Western Ghats. It forms the base camp for several treks or walking trails that start off in this area. The cascade has an inherent natural magnificence unlike other waterfalls in the state, which is why it is now being classified as an eco-tourism destination. On the opposite side, a valley stretches out into a vast expanse, swallowing the fast-flowing water into its body. Occasionally, this view gets covered up by hanging clouds, so it all depends on your luck.
Power House Falls: Said to be originating from Devikulam which also known as the Lake of Goddess, the PowerHouse Falls is situated about 35 kms from Munnar. The waterfalls fall from a height of 2000 m above the sea level and the area around the waterfall is enclosed by tea estates and thick vegetation.
Anchuruli Waterfalls: Situated amongst the gushing locations in Western Ghats and providing an enchanting view of the semi-evergreen forests grasslands, the Anchuruli Waterfalls which is also spelt as Anjuruli is a location definitely worth visiting. The water that comes from Erattayar River is used for the Idukki hydro-electric project. A tunnel which is 2 km long passes through Erattayar and Anchuruli carrying water to the lake. Though the tunnel is dangerous, it is a fun place to take a stroll especially for all the adventure lovers. The name ‘Anchuruli’ means five vessels and has been derived from the five small hills that can be seen in water once the water level is low and these hills appear like five vessels that are inverted. With an amazing view of nature, this destination is truly a place for everyone to unwind away from the hustle-bustle of daily life. An extension of the Idukki Dam, here the chirping sounds of the birds and that of streams and waterfalls provide a very comforting atmosphere to the place.
Valara Waterfalls: Situated between Adimali and Neriamangalam, the Valara Waterfalls is one of the most enchanting spots in this region. Valara, which comprises a chain of waterfalls surrounded by lush green forests, is home to a variety of animals and birds is situated 42 km away from Munnar. The flawless look, fabulous views and the gushing waterfall makes it a place definitely worth visiting.
Hill View Park: Located just about a km from Idukki city centre, the Hill View Park is approximately 350 feet from the Idukki dam. As the name suggests, Hill View Park is one such places in Idukki that offers spectacular views of the Cheruthoni and Idukki Dams. This park is a great place to spot diverse wildlife in its belt natural habitat. Hill View Park also has a couple of recent adventure additions including ziplining. A sloping path up to Hill View Park opens visitors to a serene green atmosphere with a few eating options and toilet facilities as well. There is also a children’s play area with slides and swings within this park. One of the top buys here is the famous spiced chocolate. Hill View Park is a great photo op for the Idukki dam, as it is not allowed to click pictures at the dam.
Ayyapancoil Hanging Bridge: A bridge that is one of a kind and attracts numerous tourists on a daily basis, the Ayyapancoil Hanging Bridge is one of the longest hanging bridges in Kerala. An engineering wonder which also happens to be the least explored place, the area that surrounds the bridge is not visited by a lot of tourists thereby making it retain its natural beauty to date. The reservoir along with the Periyar River adds natural beauty to the bridge with the scenic mountains, dense coconut trees and the freshness of the river water flowing. The views that you get from the bridge are going to leave you enthralled. Also, the surrounding reservoir and mountains make up for a spectacular view. So, next time whenever you feel like unwinding away from the screeching noise of the city, you definitely know where to head!
Pothamedu View Point: Situated about 5 km off Munnar, the Pothamedu View Point is adorned with stretching hills and lush green mountains. One can witness the spectacular wide views of tea, coffee and cardamom plantations of the area. It is an ideal place to witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The Idukki Arch Dam which is about 60 kms away is visible from this viewpoint on a clear day,
Kalvari Mount: Located on the Kattapana – Idukki Road, Kalvari Mount is a popular hillock and a popular Christian pilgrimage site situated 5 km on the outskirts of the city of Idukki. Also known as Kalyanathandu, the vantage point is perched at a height of 20 m and boasts of scenic sunrise and sunset views to die for. Besides, you will be enthralled by the stunning panoramic vistas of the gorgeous valley below and also of the Idukki Dam. If you get lucky, you might also be able to spot herds of elephants bathing in the lakes below. The highlight of the mountain are its grand celebrations of Good Friday and Lent. In the month of April, the Christian devotees and pilgrims carry out and elaborate procession atop the mountain to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The hillock however, has a very steep slope and is mostly scaled by professional trekkers. As the road is rugged and the rocks are mostly slippery, it is advised to climb to the top only on foot. But if you are a professional driver and you have an SUV, you can choose to drive up. There is enough space to park your vehicles on top. In addition to this, Kalvari Mount is also a popular picnic spot. You can also choose to extend your stay and enjoy surreal views of the adjacent dense green forest and sweeping views of the valley. There are two cottages at the foothills of the mountain that are managed by the forest department, where you can stay for the night.
Chathurangapara Viewpoint: Located on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Chathurangapara is a hilltop viewpoint. This viewpoint is a nature lover’s paradise. Surrounded by windmills, Chathurangapara provides a panorama of the entire Idukki hill station. While the viewpoint is open 24hrs of the day, it is best to visit either around sunrise or sunset, when the sky and mountains merge with one another. Because of high-speed winds and the many, many windmills around Chathurangapara, it is advisable to be very careful when visiting this viewpoint. It can get very windy very fast, and one must stay within safe distances from the edge of the cliff. The Viewpoint is about 18 kilometers from the main Idukki city, and one cana vail bikes or cabs to reach this viewpoint.
Munnar: Munnar is a popular hill-station of Kerala perched at an altitude of 1600 metres in the Western Ghats. Famous for its tea estates, various shades of green, blankets of mist and craggy peaks, Munnar is aptly known as the Kashmir of South India. Situated on the banks of three rivers – Madupetti, Nallathanni and Periavaru, Munnar is also blessed with natural view-points apart from the tea-plantations. Munnar is divided into Old Munnar, where the tourist information office is, and Munnar, where the bus station and most guest houses are located. The Eravikulam National Park, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and tea plantations are its major attractions. In Munnar, brace yourself up for one of the most romantic places in India, for the delightful weather, the endless lush green fields of tea-gardens and the hilly terrains of Western Ghats. Over the past few years, Munnar has become one of the most sought- after honeymoon destination.
Suryanelli: A resort town in Chinnakanal village, Suryanelli located at a distance of around 50 km from Munnar and is famous for its tea and cardamom plantations and stunning vistas of mountains, waterfalls and sunrise. The forest here is home to many endangered animals, including the Nilgiri Marten, a native here. Suryanelli in Tamil roughly translates to no sunlight which is very apt, since the place, sitting at the height of 1,412 m from sea level, is densely covered by forest. The town, though is lesser-known and shadowed by the fame of much more popular Munnar. The village receives very high rainfall every year, in the months of June-September. There are many near-by places that one can visit while staying here.
Kuttikanam: A hill station lying within the territory of Peermade, Kuttikkanam is located 3500 feet above sea level and is famous for the tea and coffee plantations that grow in the area on a full scale. The green hills, the number of animals that can be spotted alongside the various species of fauna and the pleasant climate add to the positives of it
Vattavada: Situated in the Western Ghats, the rolling topography of the hills and valleys of Vattavada are only about 45km away from Munnar. Experiencing a pleasant climate in the region around and in Vattavada varies in height from 4760 ft to 8842 ft above sea level. All these factors, coupled together, give Vattavada the perfect required conditions for the growth of various vegetables and fruits. With a wide variety of crops grown here, Vattavada is a unique tourist destination surrounded in lavish greenery and nature. Interestingly, the village of Vattavada also has a Tamil connection. The residents of this village are mainly from Tamil Nadu who fled into the area after the invasion by Tipu Sultan around two hundred years ago. Their cultural nuances are still felt in their dialect and practice of caste system which varies slightly from those of the Kerala plains.
Kanthalloor: A beautiful village, Kanthalloor is situated at a distance of 330 km from the state’s capital, Trivandrum. The town is peacefully nestled amidst the Western Ghats and is widely known for its picturesque landscapes and pleasant, salubrious climate. Kanthalloor is often called Kerala’s Kashmir and the Land of Fruits. Its proximity to Munnar has helped put this village on the tourism map. The town is famous for growing a wide variety of crops, seasonal fruits and vegetables that are not produced anywhere else in Kerala. Kanthalloor is surrounded by the evergreen Anaimudi Sholai National Park, which was formerly known as Mannavan Chola. The scenic farm fields and the deep, echoing valleys add to Kanthalloor’s photogenic environment. It is truly a must-visit destination for nature lovers who wish to lose themselves in the serenity and have a relaxing time.
Parunthumpara: Located at an altitude of 1200 m, Parunthumpara is a quiet scenic landscape that has been attracting visitors recently. Parunthu which in Malayalam means an eagle and para meaning a rock, in essence, describes the natural terrain of Parunthumpara. The small village of Parunthumpara is hence famous for its rock that resembles an eagle. The sprawling meadows and stunning natural beauty are ideal for a trek or picnic. On the other hand, Paranthumpara is easily accessible, en route and nearby to Kerala’s other tourist attractions. Kerala tourism is planning to showcase Parunthumpara as an essential stopover for tourists travelling between Kumarakom and Thekkady.
Vagamon: Known as the Scotland of Asia and located near the Kottayam-Idukki border, Wagamon, popularly known as Vagamon, is a quiet offbeat hill station in Kerala. With a pleasant climate throughout the year, this breathtaking tourist spot has meandering rivulets and lush green hills surrounding it. The tea garden, pine forests, waterfalls, mesmerising meadows are all that makes Vagamon the perfect getaway. Vagamon is gradually gaining attention for being one of India’s topmost adventure tourism spot, with activities such as trekking, rock climbing and paragliding being offered to tourists. Cycling through the mountains is another interesting activity that visitors can participate in to get a better feel of the place. The Kerala Tourism Department and the Adventure Sports and Sustainable Tourism Academy (AASTA) celebrates an International Paragliding festival in Vagamon each year, which is very popular with both the tourists as well as the locals.
Ramakkalmedu: A tiny hamlet close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, Ramakkalmedu is located 40kms away from Thekkady. From here, one can get beautiful views of the sunrise in the eastern hills and the sunset on the eastern mountains. The thick evergreen forest surrounding the mountains which are situated adjacent to the site and serving as a natural habitat for a variety of birds and animals provide a beautiful view worth looking at. Its name can be broken down into three words namely Ram, Kal, and Medu referring to Lord Rama, rock, and land. According to legend, this place was visited by Lord Rama while he was searching for his wife Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka. While his search was going on, he stepped on the tallest rock while looking for Sita which was named as Ramakkal and later came to be known as Ramakkalmedu. Since Ramakkalmedu hill station is situated at an elevation of 3560 feet from sea level, the area is famous for carrying out adventure activities including hiking, paragliding, trekking, and camping. Situated atop one of the Ramakkalmedu hills, the statue of Kuruvan & Kuruthi was built by C.B. Jinan of Balaramapuram. This exquisite beauty is visited by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. One can also view a part of the Tamil Nadu state from this hill. Kuruvan and Kurathi were the two historical characters belonging to the local community whose names have been given to these huge rocks between which the Idukki Dam was constructed. It is also said that the famous place where the Idukki Dam is built was found out by Kuruvan and Kuruthi. According to the rules, no tourist is allowed to climb on the top of the statue. There is a mandapam built behind the statue by the authority which serves a rest house for the visitors. One can reach here by foot or vehicle with parking facility available.
Panchalimedu: One of the most exquisite hill stations in Idukki, Panchalimedu provides an unearthly atmosphere with its speciality being the cold climate and refreshing breeze. The place is surrounded by a captivating set of hills which refreshes the mind and body of its visitors. If legends are to be believed, then the Pandavas came here and stayed at this place during the period of their exile which is how the place got its name. One of the caves here also bears the footprints of Bhima and a small pond known as Panjali Kulam situated here is the place where the wife of the Pandavas i.e. Panchali used to take bath. On the western side, the cliff points towards Mundakkayam and Kanjirapally. It is also said that even the sea can be viewed from here on a day when the sky is clear. Panchalimedu is situated at a distance of 7 km from Murinjapuzha on the Kottam-Kumily route at an elevation of 2500 feet above sea level. A number of Ayyappa devotees camp here on Makar Sankranti to be a part of the pious Makaravilakku that appears in the Ponnambalamedu near the Sabarimala temple. One is likely to discover a lot of new things and places at this hill station and witness the surreal beauty of nature.
Anakkara: A small village in Idukki, Anakarra is just about 50 sq. km in area. Situated approximately 18 km from Idduki wildlife sanctuary on the Kumily-Munnar state highway, this place is famous for its spice plantations and picturesque waterfalls. It also offers trekking opportunities and paragliding options depending on weather for adventure enthusiasts. Aruvikuzhi Falls, also known as Chellarcovil falls is a very famous spot which also houses an Ayurvedic destination resorts apart from spice plantations. Ottakathalemedu is another nearby place which offers a panoramic view of Anakkara and surrounding area and a beautiful sunset view. Home Stays are an important accommodation option in this area.
Meesapulimala: The second highest peak in Southern India, Meesapulimala stands elevated at an altitude of 2641 meters or 8660 feet above sea level. The densely covered terrain has eight peaks that together resemble a moustache and is, therefore, called Meesapulimala. Also, considered as a hotspot of diversity, Meesapulimala has been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Eravikulam National Park: Located a 45 minute drive away from Munnar, the Eravikulam National Park houses a rich and diverse variety of flora and fauna and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Also known as Rajamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, this place was managed as a game reserve by the Kanan Devan Hills Produce Company before 1971. The control was taken over by the Karnataka Government in 1971, and it was declared a national park in 1978. Elephant, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri marten, Atlas moth (largest in the world), lion-tailed macaque, small-clawed otter and a rare tiger or leopard are some of the main animal species that can be spotted here. The Eravikulam National park is famous for housing the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr. It stands out for the ravishing beauty of its rolling grasslands and sholas, spread over 97 sq km in the Kannan Devan hills. Anamudi, which is the highest peak south of Himalayas at a height of 2695m, stands majestically in the central area of the national park. The slopes of the hills are home to many kinds of rare plants and trees some of which are epiphytic orchids and beautiful wild balsams. The important fauna here is the Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langur, leopard, tiger, Indian bison, etc. The next bloom of Neelakurinji Flowers that bloom ever 12 years will be in 2018. The park is open from 7:30 am to 4:30 and is closed during February and March. Entry fees for Indians is INR 90 for an adults and INR 65 for children and foreigners will need to pay INR 360. There is a reservation fee of INR 50 and the reservation counter at the Munnar information centre is open from 9 am to 3 pm daily.
Anamudi Peak: Often called the pride of Kerala, Anamudi or Anai Mudi Peak in Munnar stands at a magnificent height of 2695 metres above sea level. Literally meaning Elephants Forehead, the peak is well known to be the home for the largest surviving population of Asian elephants in India. The peak itself is within the boundaries of the Eravikulam National Park, offering plenty of opportunities to explore to flora and fauna of the surroundings. A famous trekking destination in Munnar, the Anamudi peak is considered to be the tallest peak outside of the Himalayas and in the Western Ghats of the South as well as the greatest topographic isolation in India. It is also famous for the Neela Kurinji flower which is known to blossom only once every 12 years. The Anamudi Peak remains closed to visitors from February to March. The peak is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Pampadum Shola National Park: The smallest national park of the state with an area of 11.75 sq km, the Pampadum Shola National Park is managed and maintained by Kerala Department of Forests and Wildlife. Pampadum Shola is a Malayalam word which translates to ‘a forest where snakes dance’. Here, ‘pamp’ translates to a snake, ‘aattam’ refers to the dance performed by the snakes and ‘shola’ or ‘cholai’ translates to a forest. Owing to the spectacular biodiversity of flora and fauna, this park, along with the Westerns Ghats, and few other parks are being observed by UNESCO World Heritage Committee to consider them as a World Heritage Site nominee. Cloudy weather prevails throughout the year in the park, perfect for trekking and picnics. The park has an undulating terrain with varied hill heights. The altitudes range between 1500 meters to 2500 meters, and a continuous patch of forest prevails from 1500 meters, up to 2000 meters. The area above that is mostly covered with grasslands.
Mathikettan Shola National Park: Located in between the as Eravikulam and Pampadam Shola National Parks, the Mathikettan Shola National Park was established initially to encourage cardamom plantation, it was declared as a national park in 2003 to protect the environment, and it’s ecology, flora and wildlife. It now stands as a conservatory for wildlife and flora alike. The name of the park, Mathikettan, is derived from Tamil directly translating to mind confuser and is credited to the belief that one may lose their way once they enter the forest. The vast forest plays a vital role in the environment serving as a biodiversity hot spot. The tall forests transform into a natural sanctuary where it also is an excellent spot for bird-watching. Tourists may even spot animals such as elephants, tigers, panthers, rat snakes, flying squirrel, giant grizzled squirrel, king cobra, crocodiles, Nilgiri tahr, spotted deer among others.
Anamudi Shola National Park: Located along the western ghats the Anamudi Shola National Park is a remarkable national reserve spread over 7.5 km square. You can plan a trek in the establishment to check out various attractions within the park. Thoovanam waterfall, Chinnar River and the adjacent waterfall, and Pambar river to name a few. The park has been nominated for the status of World Heritage Site under UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme. In 2003 it was declared as a National Park as a part of the Annamalai sub-cluster. It is being managed by Munnar Wildlife Division and Kerala Wildlife and Forest department since then. The west coast tropical evergreen is the dominant flora that covers the major forest area. As you go to the higher altitude areas, you will find more of the southern hilltop tropical vegetation. In addition to the unique biodiversity and climate of the park, it also has one of the largest shola forest ecosystems in India. The park also houses over 60 species of trees, 38 species of climbers and 175 species of herbs and shrubs. You can easily spot leopards, civet cats, wolves, Indian Bison, wild boars, elephants, tigers, Panther, sloth bear, flying squirrels, jungle cat, wild dogs, and more. It’s not only about animals. In addition to that, you can also enjoy a wide range of rare birds (more than 76), over 200 species of moths, 100 species of butterflies, and even reptiles. The park is open from 7:30 am to 4 pm and Indians pay INR 90, children between the ages of 5 and 12 pay INR 65 and foreigners, both adults and children pay INR 360 as entrance fees.
Periyar National Park: One of the most bio-diverse regions in the world and the best-protected reserve area in India, the The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is famous for its gorgeousness, greenery and stillness. The park is the dwelling place of abundant significant species, including the royal tigers and majestic elephants apart from other reptiles, fishes and birds. The Periyar National Park is spread over 257 square miles and the rivers Pamba and Periyar flow through it. The attractions at the national park are perfect places for enjoying boating at the magnificent lake, trekking through the dense forests, or simply sitting back to spot an animal or two. The Periyar National Park is home to many threatened and endangered species like elephants and tigers. One can easily spot white tigers, Indian elephants, wild pigs, flying squirrels, fruit bats, sloth bears and jungle cats here. More than 266 species of birds, including migratory ones, also live here. Top birds to spot here are Malabar grey hornbill, white-bellied blue flycatcher, Sunbird, great hornbill, black-necked stork and Nilgiri wood pigeon. 45 species of reptiles, including lizards, snakes and turtles; 40 species of fishes and more than 160 butterfly species are found here. The floral beauty of the place is equally enchanting. Top flora of this park comprises of teak, mangoes, rosewood, tamarind, bamboos, sacred fig, sandalwood, jacarandas, Indian conifer and others. Plants of medicinal importance and coffee, cardamom and tea plantations can also be found here. The best way to see the sights and spot the wildlife at the park is to take a safari. You can choose between elephant safari or a jeep safari or opt for a boat cruise at the lake. Not available during the monsoon season, the boat safari cruise timings are 7:25 am, 9:15 am, 11:15 am, 1:30 pm and 4 pm with each cruise lasting about 30 minutes. The Jeep safaris are ideal for individuals or small groups. Photographers especially prefer this option to click the ferocious and majestic animals in all their beauty and grandeur. The full day safari starts in the early morning hours, while the last trip starts by three in the evening. The timings for the night safari are from 11 pm to 3 am. The park is open from 6 am to 7 pm with the night safari starting after 8 pm. Entrance fees for an Indian is INR 45 for an adult and INR 15 for a child while for foreigners it is INR 500 for an adult and INR 180 for a child. Boating fee is INR 255 per person while binocular fees are INR 50 with a security deposit of INR 100.
As we get closer to the southern part of the state, our next halt is Pathanamthitta.
A fast growing town and known as the Pilgrim Capital of Kerala due to its proximity to the holy pilgrim centre of Sabrimala. More than half district is covered with forests and agriculture is the main economy here. The regions that form the town were formerly under the rule of Pandalam, which had connections with the Pandya kingdom. It is believed that Hindu God Lord Ayyappa was the King of this region.When Pandalam was added to the princely state of Travancore in 1820, the region came under Travancore administration. Modern day Pathanamthitta district, was formed with on 1 November 1982. Situated near the Western Ghats and bordered by the hills, Pathanamthitta is a treat to eyes with its vast unending stretches of forests, rivers and rural landscapes. Blessed by nature, the district is famous for its scenic beauty, fairs and festivals. Land of Lord Ayyappa is the tag-line of Pathanamthitta tourism and it attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims every year. The region is parted into a fascinating topography of highlands, midlands and lowlands crafted by three rivers coursing in the town. The town of Pathanamthitta is also marked by a culture unique to this place as well as an art of metal mirrors i.e. Aranmula Kannadi, handcrafted with intricacy and poise. The town also practices the art of ‘vaasthu vidya’ in its purest form at a heritage village of Vassthu Vidya Gurukulam.
Sabarimala: More than 30 million pilgrims visit the temple in Sabarimala annually, making it the largest in India and second largest in the world, after the Hajj Pilgrimage of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Located inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, in the Pathanamthitta district, Sabarimala is a temple town on the bank of the River Pampa. Named after the mythological character, Sabarimala is home to the famous Ayyapa temple. The temple is also known as Dharma Sashta and is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. People believe that Vishnu’s incarnate, Parasurama, placed the Ayyappa Idol at the top of the mountain. One can see that the traditions of Sabarimala are a blend of Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and other Sramana traditions. The temple is situated amidst eighteen hills and dense forest surrounding the temple, which is known as Poongavanam. People trek up the mountains from Plapalli, proceeding to Aangaamuzhi, and then to Muzhiyaar and finally to Sabarigiri road. The temple is open on the first five days of each Malayalam month with it being most crowded during Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku or Makar Sankranti.
The Ayyappa Temple is one of the very few Hindu temples in India that are open to all faiths and emphasizes on secularism and communal harmony. All men are seen equal before the Lord, irrespective of their caste, creed or race and hence all people visiting the temple refer to each other as Ayyappa Swami. The temple is considered to be laid out according to the Lord’s wishes and hence one can see that Goddess Malikappurathamma is placed left to the main sanctum sanctoram and the Lord’s aides, Vavar and Kadutha stand at the foot of the 18 Holy steps or the Pathinettu Thrippadi that leads to the main sanctum. The temple was rebuilt after a massive fire in 1950 and stands on a plateau surrounded by mountains and valleys below. The sanctum sanctorum has a copper-plated roof with golden finials, two mandapams, the Kodimaram or the flagstaff and the Belikalpura which houses the altar. The Ayyappa idol which was initially carved out of stone is presently made out of Panchaloha, an amalgamation of five metals and stands one and a half feet tall. The Sabarimala pilgrimage is undertaken by thousands of ardent devotees every year. A strict-41 day fast is observed before the pilgrimage, which is believed to cleanse the mind, body and soul. The devotees follow a Lacto-vegetarian diet and practice celibacy and teetotalism. They also do not cut their hair or nails during this period, allowing them to grow. Their attire is composed of simple black or saffron garments, and they wear a special mala or chain made of Rudraksha beads. The devotees are expected to lead an altruistic lifestyle by helping others and doing service in the name of their Lord Ayyappan. After the fast period, the devotees follow the difficult path through Erumely to reach the Pamba river, or else they arrive by vehicles. They then begin their long climb from the Neeli Mala to Sabari Mala, the abode of Lord Ayyappan.
Women between the ages of 10 to 50, during their menstrual cycles were not allowed on Sabarimala until the Indian Supreme Court overturned the restriction on 28th September 2018. While the entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple is still a burning issue, there are legends that tell us why women have been barred from the temple for ages. The first legend says that Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union of Lord Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is said that Lord Vishnu took this feminine form to mainly destroy a demon, Bhashmasura, who had acquired the elixir from the gods during the churning of the ocean. When Lord Ayyappa was a minor, a lady-demon started creating havoc in the south and could only be defeated by the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini. After Lord Ayyappa defeated her, she turned into a beautiful woman and revealed that she was cursed to live the life of a demon. She proposed to Lord Ayyappa who, without any second thoughts, refused. But as she persisted, he promised that he would marry her the day kanniswamis or new devotees stopped visiting him at Sabarimala. The woman agreed to wait for him at the neighbouring temple and is worshipped today by many as Malikapurathamma. In her honour, it is said that Lord Ayyappa does not receive any menstruating women. Women, too, do not prefer visiting the temple as that would mean insulting Malikapurathamma’s love and sacrifice. Another legend treats Lord Ayyappa as a historical figure who was born in the royal family of Panthalam. He grew up to be one of the most loved and respected princes in the kingdom who cared for his people. One day, an Arab commander by name Babar or Vavar attacked the kingdom but was defeated by Ayyappa and since then, became his devout follower. Today, Vavr lives in the spirit in a shrine in Erumeli at a small distance from Sabarimala. As the presiding deity of the Sabarimala Temple, Ayyappa vowed to answer each devotee’s prayers who walks up to his shrine and hence shunned all worldly desires, including contact with women.
Kaviyoor Rock Temple: The cave temple left in the state, the Kaviyoor Rock Temple glorifies the culture of the area more that its spiritual aspect. This ancient cave temple established in Tamil Pallava style is devoted to Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God. Thus, one can witness the large number of monkey in an around the temple who are feasted on regular basis.
Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple: An ancient temple located on a small hilltop at Kaviyoor, the Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is one of the most popular and significant Shiva Temple in Kerala. Built in a unique style of architecture, the temple is also popularly known as Thrikkaviyoor Mahadeva Temple. Kerala is a state of strict rituals and traditions that also form a very significant part of all temples including this ancient temple. A non-Hindu can’t enter the temple other than the outer walls. A strict dress code is to be followed and photography is absolutely prohibited. An annual festival is organised during December and January and the festival of Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated here with great fervor. The temple is also referred to as the Hanuman temple. Other major temples located in the vicinity of the temple are Bhagavathy Temple, Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple, Kadamanitta Devi Temple, Valiyakoikal Temple, Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple and Sree Vallabha Temple.
Malayalapuzha Devi Temple: An epitome of art and architectural marvel of ancient times, this temple is considered to be one of the largest Devi temples. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga and it is a common belief that whoever worships here with a true heart is granted their wishes and is aided in realising their dreams.
Sree Vallabha Temple: An important spiritual site for Vaishnavites, the Sree Vallabha Temple is one of the hundred and eight Vaishnava temples in India. The temple is mainly renowned for its big Vedic school where students are taught and trained in Hindu Tantric practices and Vedas. One of the most striking feature of the temple is the daily performance of Kathakali in the temple in evening.
Thriveni Sangamam: Situated on the way to Sabarimala, the Thriveni Sanganam as the name suggests is the point where the Holy Pamba River meets with the Manimala River in its north and with the Achankovil River in the south. Devotees stop here to take a dip in the holy water to wash away their sins. The Pamba River, also known as the Dakshina Ganga or the Ganges of South India, is the third longest river in the southern part of the country which begins flowing from the Western Ghats. Devotees believe that it was near this holy river that King Rajasekara gained a vision of Lord Ayappa. Considered as pure as the Ganges, the water of the Pamba River can purify the evil and lift the curse which is why it is deemed to be lucky for all the pilgrims to take a dip in the river before and after trekking the Sabarimala. The perfect time to visit Thriveni Sangamam is between September and February when the temperature is extremely pleasant and worth exploring. The summers are hot and humid whereas the monsoon experiences heavy rainfalls thereby not allowing you to step outside. Thus, you should avoid visiting during the monsoon and summers.
Manjinikkara Church: Another significant Syrian Christian’s pilgrim center, the Manjinikkara Church is located in Manjanikkara on the top of a hill about 6 km from Pathanamthitta. This church was created by Mor Yullus Elias Qoro and is known for its remarkable altar with figures of Saint and Jesus. However, the salient feature of this church is ascribed as the presence of the holy tomb of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Elias III placed near the altar. It is said that the saint arrived at this place in 1931 and stayed here till his death in 1932. A festival in the honour of the saint is organized every year and is known as feast of the saint or Orma Perunnal. Paliakara Church is also located in the vicinity.
Paliakara Church: An ancient structure that holds a reflection of the rich cultural past of Kerala, the Paliakara Church is located in Trivuvalla and is one of the important religious centers for Syrian Christians with its roots going back to 54 AD to the arrival of St. Thomas. Known for its incredible architecture, the outer wall of the building is adorned with the carved latticework and engravings of various saints. The church’s other major attraction are the ancient paintings on the eastern wall made with the help of natural vegetable dyes. They depict the main events of the life of Jesus Christ. One can also see the painting of patron saint of the church St. George as well as a painting showcasing the twelve apostles of Christ. The most fascinating thing about this structure is that one can witness an amazing blend of Hindu elements in many aspects of church. Tiny sculptures of elephants and tigers can be seen on wooden beams supporting the roof. A feast is organized for 10 days from mid-April to mid-May every year. The church is opened from 8 am to 8 pm every day and for everyone.
Perunthenaruvi Waterfall: A natural waterfall with captivating surroundings is situated on the banks of the River Pamba, the Perunthenaruvi Waterfall is 60 to 100 ft deep which pours down on a rocky bed. The place is a favourite picnic spot among locals as well as tourists.
Gavi: One of the most beautiful places in India, Gavi is a small village tucked between tea estates and wide and dense forests. A unique project in itself, the place is a model of eco-tourism site and is situated some 14 km away from the Periyar Tiger Reserve. This ambitious eco-tourism project of the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, has caught the eye of the world for its excellent model and use of local people for conservation & tourism. A place which is full of breathtaking sceneries, wildlife, amazing people, and great activities is the epitome of everything that tourism in Kerala represents. The eco-tourist lodge at the village is located conveniently in front of a magnificent lake providing great views of a lake and the adjoining forest. One can enjoy trekking, camping, canoeing and other activities or just sit back near the lake and be blown away by the beauty of the place. The best time to visit the village is from October till February as the weather is pleasant with temperatures in day time hovering around 28 degrees and 20 degrees during night time.
Our next destination moving further south is Kollam
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.