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September 2014

Top 6 Must Visit Places in Kerala

Places in Kerala: Kerala is a land abundant with long shorelines with serene beaches, tranquil stretches of enchanting backwaters, hill tops covered in blankets of green, exotic wildlife, bewitching waterfalls, sprawling plantations, lush paddy fields and a zillion other alluring beauties of nature coupled with rich culture and heritage making it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world .

The culinary extravaganza adds all the more reason to make the “God’s Own Country” an integral part of the itinerary. Just like the diversification in cuisine, this land promises a variety in terms of experience in excitement, serenity and spiritual healing.

Words fall short in describing the natural splendor of Kerala that are worth visiting, but here are the six locations that sit right on top amongst the most remarkable locations to be visited in Kerala.

Alappuzha

The first best place in Kerala the you would definitely want to set foot in is Alleppey or Alappuzha. Get ready to be mesmerized by the land where tranquility marries sheer excitement. Christened as “The Venice of the East” by Lord Curzon, the then viceroy of India during the 20th century, Alleppey holds an intricate network of waterways flanked by blankets of green, that host some of the most celebrated adrenalin pumping traditional boat races. Parallelly, it is also renowned for the serene and laid-back cruises in the famous “Kettuvallams” or the houseboats equipped with all the modern amenities through the enchanting backwaters.

Major attractions in Alleppey include the Krishnapuram Palace,Alleppey Beach, Ambalapuzha, Karumadi, Punnapra, Pathiramanal and Kuttanahttp://blog.backwaterbreaks.com/post/98540315929/places-to-visit-in-alleppeyd(Also read : https://backwaterbreaks.blog/alleppey/places-to-visit-in-alleppey/

places in Kerala

A houseboat cruise through the serene backwaters

places in Kerala

Alleppey hosts number of adrenaline pumping traditional boat races

Fort Kochi

The region, born in 1341, when a flood created a natural safe port that swiftly replaced Muziris (Kodungalloor,50 km north) as the chief harbour on the Malabar coastline is a city that speaks history in its every nook and corner. The European involvement in Kochi began as early as the 1500s with the Portuguese, Dutch and British competing to control the port and its lucrative spice trade. In the 1920s, the British expanded the port by extensive dredging creating the Willington Island, between Ernakulam and Fort Kochi.

The city showcases its tryst with the European cultures through the presence of Portuguese built houses, Churches, villas and other buildings of Indo European architecture as well as the Jewish settlements of Mattancherry that houses the Jewish Synagogue and the Dutch Palace that is over 400 years old. Some of the major attractions consist of the Santa Cruz Basilica, St Francis Church, Mattancherry Palace, Fort Kochi Beach and the Jewish Synagogue. Read more:  https://backwaterbreaks.blog/travel-destinations/places-travel-kochi/

places in Kerala

Chinese fishnet in Fort Cochin

places in Kerala

Wayanad

Of the places in Kerala, Wayanad is on the southern tip of the Deccan Plateau, with the majestic Western Ghats with lofty ridges scattered with dense forests, intertwined jungles and deep valleys lies the spectacular district of Wayanad. It is the only district in Kerala that shares borders with both the neighboring states Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Wayanad is a haven for adventurers as well as others who wish to get engulfed in nature’s magnificence at its peak.

Known to have had a civilization dating as far back as 3000 B.C, Wayanad boasts of unsurpassable beauty with it major attractions such as the Edakkal Caves, the Chembra peak, kuruva islands, Lakkidi, Muthanga wildlife sanctuary, pakshipathalam, Pazhassi Raja tomb, Pookot lake, Sentinel Rock waterfalls, kanthanpara water falls, soochippara waterfalls and Banasura Sagar dam. Read More: https://backwaterbreaks.blog/kerala-tourism/visiting-wayanad-the-land-of-plush-greenery-and/

Munnar

Munnar marks the convergence of the three mountain streams namely Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala at about 1,600 m above the sea level. It is an epitome of awe striking beauty with its vast expanse of tea plantations, fairytale like towns, narrow zigzag lanes, misty hills and bright exotic flowers. Mountain biking and trekking are two of the favorite activities people love to take up in this part of the land. Towering over 2695 m in Munnar is also the highest peak in South India called the Anamudi. Some of the other major attractions of this breathtaking location are the Cheeyapara waterfalls, Eravikulam National Park, Anayirangal, Pallivasal, Mattupetty, tea museums and so on. At about 42km away from Munnar is the well-known Sandalwood factory and forests which is also a place worth paying a visit to.

The view of this splendid location is sufficient to appreciate why the British favorited it as their summer resort.

places in Kerala

Munnar is an epitome of awe striking beauty with its vast expanse of tea plantations

Kannur

Bounded by the Western Ghats in the east and the Lakshadweep Sea in the west, Kannur or the erstwhile Cannanore is the largest city of the North Malabar region on the Arabian Sea. The former Cannanore carried on important trade with Persia (Iran) and Arabia in the 12th and 13th centuries and remained the capital of the raja of Kolathiri till the 18th century. The year 1498 saw the beginning of the Portuguese influence over the state with the arrival of Vasco Da Gama into Kozhikode lying south of Kannur.

Put under the influence of varying powers over history, Kannur is a land rich in culture and architectures that speak volumes about the heritage that it has derived over centuries thriving under different rulers in addition to its natural beaches, hill stations, backwaters etc.

Known as the “The Land of the looms and lore”, Kannur enjoys the credit of being a major exporter of handlooms as well as being the cradle of many colorful folk arts and folk music of Kerala.

Some of the major attractions here include the Arakkal Museum, Bekal fort, Dharmadam Island, Ezhimala, Kerala Folklore Academy, Madayi Para, Muzhappilangad drive in beach, Overbury’s Folly, Parassinikkadavu Snake Park, Payyambalam beach, Paithalmala, Kannur Fort, Thalassery Fort, Kavvayi Backwaters, Mahe and so on.

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A traditional style sea facing cottage in Kannur

places in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city and the political nerve of Kerala, is located at the south west tip of India bound by the Arabian Sea in the west and Tamil Nadu in the east and is a must must visit  among the several places top places in Kerala.

Branded the ‘Evergreen city of India’ by Mahatma Gandhi, Thiruvananthapuram comprises beautiful beaches, long stretches of palm fringed shorelines, calm backwaters and historical structures. Having derived its name from the great Lord Vishnu, this city, besides its natural and historical significance, is also popular for its ancient temples renowned for their architecture with the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple being one of the most prominent attractions.

The must visit locations in this beautiful city includes the Pazhavangadi Ganapathy temple, Poovar Island, Attukal Bhagavathy temple, Padmanabhapuram Palace, Agastya Mala, Kovalam Beach, Puthenmalika Palace, Chowara beach, Vizhinjam Lighthouse, Sree Parasurama Temple, Napier Art Museum and Gallery, Karikkakom Chamunda Devi Temple, Varkala Beach, Elephant Rehabilitation Center, Veli tourist Village and so on.

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Places to visit in Alleppey

Alleppey or Alappuzha was christened “The Venice of the East” in the first decade of the 20th century, by the then viceroy of the Indian Empire, Lord Curzon who was mesmerized by the profuse greenery, the scenic beauty, and the intricate network of waterways used to carry out trade in the region. He was also known to have quoted “Here nature has spent up on the land her richest bounties”.

In today’s world,the Alleppey town is known to have the oldest planned town in this region with a lighthouse built on the coast of the town being the first of its kind along the Laccadive Sea coast

Alappuzha, whose name in itself signifies the strategic location of a land nestled between the sea and a network of rivers, flowing into it, is flanked by Ernakulam district to the north, Kottayam in the east, Kollam in the south and the Laccadive Sea in the West.

Alleppey has gained significance as one of the most important and popular tourist destinations in India over the years. The backwaters of Alappuzha hold great fascination with the tourists all over the world. A houseboat cruise in these backwaters is a delightful experience that no one can forego. The pomp and color during the festivities and famous boat races render it even more beautiful and exquisite.

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A houseboat cruise in these backwaters is a delightful experience that no one can forego.

The following are some of the popular places worth visiting on a trip down to this land of myriad legends, cultures and scenic beauty.

Alappuzha Beach

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Alappuzha town has always enjoyed a unique place in the maritime history of Kerala, by virtue of its proximity to the sea.

Raja Kesava dasan, a dewan (council member) during the reign of Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma was instrumental in founding a port with a unique vision far ahead of his time. He realized Alappuzha to be an ideal location for a port due to its suitable geographical and oceanic position.

The Alappuzha beach still contains remnants of a pier extending into the sea, which is well over 137 years old. Another part of this great heritage is a light house; located 4km from the Alappuzha town which was completed on March 28 in the year 1862, under the supervision of a European engineer Captain Hugh Crawfords. The view from atop the lighthouse is magnificent and worth paying a visit. The lighthouse is open to the public from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on all days.

Krishnapuram Palace

An embodiment of one of the finest and rarest examples of a typical Keralite style of architecture complete with gabled roofs, narrow corridors and dormer windows is located 400 m from NH-47 between Kayamkulam town and Oachira.

This 18th century palace and its courts which cover an area of approximately 1.5 acres is a two storied sprawling edifice constructed as per the Vastushastra doctrine of 16 kettu (i.e sixteen enclosures) built during the reign of the Travancore monarch, Marthanda Varma. The palace reflects the grandeur of ancient architectural style of Kerala. The sloping angular tile roof, inner court, narrow passages, narrow straight and winding stair cases, low ceiling, projecting balcony windows etc. constitute an excellent specimen of this architectural style. krishnapurampalace.jpgKrishnapuram_palace2.jpg

A noteworthy attraction of the palace is the ‘Gajendra Moksham’, one of the largest mural paintings in Kerala themed to be Lord Vishnu’s redemption of an elephant caught by a terrible crocodile. It measures14 feet by 11 feet and is at the western end of the ground floor at a walking distance from the Palace Pool.  It is said that an underground escape route runs from the bottom of the pool providing a possible escape route from enemies

Visiting hours : 9.00 am to 5.00 pm except Monday, from Alappuzha 47 km (on the way to Kollam), easily accessible by bus from Kollam or Alappuzha, 2 km to Kayamkulam bus stand, 3 km to Kayamkulam railway station.

Ambalappuzha ( Pilgrim Centre)

The Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalapuzha, famous for the typical Kerala architectural style is renowned all over India for the ‘Palpayasam’, the daily offering of delicious sweet milk porridge made to the deity.

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Once in every twelve years, ‘Pallipana’ a ritual whose myth speaks of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathy, who were incarnated as ‘kuravan’ and ‘kurathy’, awakening Lord Mahavishnu from slumber, is performed by the velans(the sorcerers). The ‘oothu’ and ‘moorothu’ are the main poojas held as part of the pallipana. The velan performs the ‘oothu’ in the day time while the velathy (wife of velan) performs the ‘moorothu’ during night.

Another ritual called the Vijayabali that coincides with the pallipana is observed after every 12 pallipana’s i.e. once in every 144 years. The last Vijayabali was conducted in the year 1954 according to the temple records with the next one anticipated in the year 2073.

Paintings of the Dasavatharam (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) are on display on the inner walls of the Chuttambalam.

The temple’s main festival occurs in March/April.Ottamthullal, a satiric art form produced by the poet Kunchan Nambiar, was first performed on the premises of this temple.

Karumadi

Situated about 5 km east of Ambalapuzha, is the Karumadi Kuttan, a black granite figure of Buddha said to belong to the 9th or 10th century. The statue, found abandoned after centuries in a nearby stream named “Karumady thodu” was restored by Sir Robert Bristow in the 1930s. The locals regard the Karumadikuttan with affection and believe it to possess many healing powers

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The nearest railway station to Karumadi kuttan is  Ambalapuzha which is about 4 km and Alappuzha which is about 17 km. The nearest airport is the Cochin International Airport at about 101 km.

There are many houseboat cruises through this region and almost all backwater and boat tours through this route cover the Karumadikuttan Buddha statue, at Karumadi.

 

Punnapra
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Punnapra, a village in the Alappuzha district of Kerala is a coastal area of Arabian Sea and lies west to Kuttanad. Punnapra is infamous for its historic fight between the communist and Travancore state police that ensued in the Punnapra Vayalar Communist Uprising of 1946.The memorials of the martyrs are located in Alappuzha near Kalarcode.

Pathiramanal (An Island)

 

“The Sands of Night” another name for the mystifyingly beautiful island in the Vembanad Lake in the Muhamma panchayat is accessible only by boat from Kumarakom and Muhamma. The scenic beauty of the islands on both the sides of the lake as well as that on the island is breathtaking and soothing to the soul. Pathiramanal is home to many rare varieties of migratory birds from different parts of the world.The Pathiramanal Island is about 1.5 km from Muhamma boat jetty and about 13 km from Alappuzha.pathiramanal.jpg

 

Nearest railway station, Alappuzha is at about 16 km and that of Cherthala atabout 10 km

The Kochi International Airport is about 85 km north of Alappuzha and theThiruvananthapuram International Airport is about 150 km away

Kuttanad

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The remarkable backwaters of Kerala are thought have originated from the flood of 1866 that silted up the harbours of yore and gave birth to lagoons, called kayals. Located en route of these beautiful waterways is the famed “Rice Bowl of the State”, Kuttanad. In Kuttanad, farming is done at 1.5 to 2 meters below the sea level. These areas have been reclaimed by the unique native engineering skills that look akin to the dykes of Holland. A calm respite in these beautiful farmlands, gleaming green with the quacks of ducks filling the air in an almost a reassuring manner is an experience unparalleled. The farms here grow banana, cassava and yam.

 

 

Navaratri – The Festival of Splendor & Divinity

Navaratri, known by multiple names in different regions of India is a grandiose festival epitomizing the triumph of good over evil. It also signifies self introspection and spiritual realization. It is known as the Durga Puja in Bengal, Dussehra in Bombay and the Saraswati Puja and Ayudha Puja in south.

The origin of the word Navaratri lies in the Sanskrit language and means ‘nine nights’ (nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights). These nine days, which fall in the month of September/October each year, mark the worship of the divine goddess Shakti/Devi.

During this period of festivities, Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different manifestations of Shakti, or the cosmic energy. Consequently, Navaratri is divided into sets of three days to revere different aspects of the supreme goddess.

During this period of festivities, Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are worshipped as three different manifestations of Shakti, or the cosmic energy

On the first three days, the Mother is invoked as powerful force called Durga who symbolizes the destruction of all negativity, evils and vices.

The next three days, the Mother is venerated as a provider of spiritual wealth, Lakshmi, who is known to possess the power of bestowing on her devotees, the boon of boundless wealth.

The final set of three days signifies the worshipping of the mother as the goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. To have absolute success in life, the blessings of all three forms of the divine mother are elemental; hence, the worship for the nine nights.

The last three days of the Navaratri are called Durgashtami, Mahanavami and Vijayadasami, and they are considered extremely sacred in comparison with the rest of the days of celebration.

People of Kerala celebrate Navaratri in all manner of pomp, prayers and merriment in the most befitting manner. The Saraswati puja and Ayudha Puja are performed on the Durgashtami day. A ceremony called Poojavaipu is performed in the evening .Prior to the Poojavaipu, all studies and work which require intelligence and skill, are brought to a halt.

Following the ‘Poojavaipu’, a Pooja is performed offering prayers to goddess Saraswati, during which fruits, beaten rice, roasted paddy (malar), jaggery etc, are offered to the divine goddess. The following day is known as Mahanavami during which the Saraswati Pooja is performed both in the morning and in the evening.

On the Vijayadasami day after a Pooja in the morning, the Books and tools are removed from the room and this ceremony is called the `Pooja Eduppu’.

This auspicious festival also witnesses the introduction of children to first few letters of the alphabet written on rice or sand directed by revered elders. This marks their initiation into the world of knowledge. This is a tradition carried down over centuries and is called the `Ezhuthinu Iruthu’ or ‘Vidyarambham’ and as per the widespread belief, only after this ceremony will a child become entitled to and capable of reading and writing.

This auspicious festival also witnesses the introduction of children to first few letters of the alphabet written on rice or sand directed by revered elders. This marks their initiation into the world of knowledge.

This festival also sets forward an attraction in the form of an assortment of sweets and dishes prepared all over the country apart from various colorful idols and figurines showcased in every nook and cranny.  Navarathri renders the country colorful and ridden with utter joy, merriment and worship, truly a sight worth beholding. 

Onam – Celebrating Harmony and Prosperity!

  “Maveli Naadu vanidum Kalam, Manushyar ellarum onnu pole”, a song handed down over centuries from the golden era of Kerala when King Mahabali ruled Kerala. The song conveys that during the rule of King Mahabali, all men lived together as one in absolute harmony. Onam, a festival celebrated with great joy and merriment, marks the yearly return of the great ruler King Mahabali who sacrificed himself for the love of his subjects and kingdom.

The Legend

One version of the legend has it that the Asura or the Demon King Mahabali was a wise, compassionate and judicious ruler venerated by all his subjects. The land flourished in unity, harmony and abundance under him. As his fame and prowess began spreading beyond his land into that of the heaven and hell, the gods felt threatened and feared his emerging power.

Aditi, the mother of Devas pleaded with Lord Vishnu to curtail Mahabali’s powers; presupposing that he will become overly powerful. Heeding to her words, Lord Vishnu transformed himself into a dwarf called Vamana and approached Mahabali during a yajna (a ritual sacrifice) and asked for alms in the form of  land; being a generous and charitable king he granted the Brahmin his wish without hesitation in spite of being warned by his court advisor Shukracharya.

The king was taken aback by surprise when vamana asked only for three footsteps of land. As soon the king granted the boon, Lord Vishnu, in the guise of Vamana increased his stature taking shape of his cosmic form and with his first step covered the sky, blotting out the stars, and with the second step, he encompassed hell. Realizing that Vamana’s third step will destroy the earth; Mahabali offered his head as the last step which pushed him into the netherworld. But before banishing him to the underworld, Vishnu granted him a boon allowing him to return to his beloved land once in a year.

Onam marks this homecoming of King Mahabali back into his dearly loved land. On this day, the whole of Kerala honors the memory of this benevolent king and celebrates prosperity and communal harmony.

Celebrating Onam

The ‘God’s Own Country’ comes alive in a plethora of colors during this secular festival in the Malayalam month of Chingam which falls in August-September. The ten days of festivity begins with the ‘Atham’ and ends with ‘Thiruvonam’.

The day one, Atham, starts with a pooja in Thrikkakara temple, Cochin known to be the dwelling place of King Mahabali. All the temples celebrate onam with a lot of pomp and merriment. Each house in Kerala put up the statues of Mahabali and Vamana at the entrance of their homes accompanied by the floral arrangement called the pookalam having yellow flowers on the first day. It is also accompanied by the processions called the ‘Athachamayam’.

On day two, Chithira, in addition to the preparation of the home for the Thiruvonam, another layer of flowers get added to the pookalam whose colors are usually orange or creamy yellow.  

The day three, Chodhi, sees a massive increase in the colors of the floral arrangement. The day marks the beginning of the shopping by the household members for new and fresh items ranging from clothes to household items for themselves as well as gifts for friends and relatives.

The day four, Vishakam, marked the commencement of the harvest sale in the yester years . In the recent times, vishakam signifies the launch of many onam related activities like the pookalam competitions.

On day five, Anizham, the snake boat races, known as vallam kali, kick start in the backwaters of God’s Own Country. Of the numerous races carried out during this season, the most famed one is the Aranmula Uthrattathi Vallamkali (snake boat race). The authentic snake boats of Aranmula are known as the palliyodams.

On day six, Thriketa, different members of the family travel across the lengths and breadths of the world to reach back their homes to be part of this great festival. This also adds up to the holiday fever of festivities and gaiety. The pookalam also doubles in size with an increase in the variety of flowers.

The day seven, Moolam, is celebrated with the leopard mask dance known as Puli Kali, and other classical dances such as Kaikotti Kali. The Onam Sadya begins on this day with temples offering sadhya to the masses on this day.

On day eight, Pooradamsmall statues of Mahabali and Vamana are cleansed and smeared with a rice-flour batter and carried around the house in a procession, to be later installed at the center of the pookkalam. The smearing is performed by small children known as the ‘Poorada unnikal’. Henceforth the statue would be known as the ‘Onathappan’.

The day nine, Uthradom, the eve of the Thiruvonam, is famous for the final shopping frenzy for the items required for the final day which is called the ‘uthradapaachil”. It is known to be the most auspicious day for the purchase of vegetables and food provisions for the Thiruvonam day.

The tenth and last day, Thiruvonam, also the most important day of onam, is said to be the day that king Mahabali was sent to patala or hell by Vamana. The eldest female family member offers gifts to the other members of the family. Prayers are offered in temples, mosques and churches on this day and a sumptuous meal called the Thiruvona-Sadya is arranged for friends and family.

Thiruvona Sadya is a vegetarian feast or banquet. This multi course meal is traditionally served on a banana leaf. The sadya has steamed rice as the main ingredient served along with many side dishes collectively called Kootan which include curries like Parippu,Sambar, Rasam, Pulisseri and others like Kaalan, Avial, Thoran, Olan, Pachadi, Mango pickle, Naranga curry, as well as Papadum,Banana, plain Yogurt or Buttermilk, and plantain chips. The traditional dessert called Payasam served at the end of the meal is of many kinds and usually three or more are served. The ‘Kootan’ are made with different vegetables and have different flavours; some say the reason for including so many dishes in the Sadya is to ensure that the diners will like at least two or three dishes. The dishes are served on specific places on the banana leaf in specific order. For example, the pickles are served on the top left corner and the banana on the bottom left corner and so on.

During this time of the year, most cities in Kerala are lit up with lights and magnificent firework displays. Numerous onam games are also played in both the rural and urban areas apart from the countless other cultural and entertainment programs such as the thiruvathirakkali, pulikali, uriyadi (pot breaking) and so on.

This time of the year is declared as the Tourism week in Kerala as this is the best time to visit the state.

 

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