Hello to all my beautiful readers! I'm back with another travel story, this time with one of the favorite destinations - Kerala
It bring me immense pleasure to bring you stories from this beautiful place down south that symbolizes culture, secularism and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. Here's hoping that this blog post sways your decision to travel and explore what is truly called 'God's own country'
The name Kerala is derived form from the words 'cair' meaning coconut and 'alay' meaning land or region, roughly translating to the 'the land of coconuts'. The state is widely known for its lush greenery, delicious food gathers global attention due to its beautiful backwaters.
Our first day of travel involved a visit to the country's southern tip - Kanyakumari, a popular tourist destination and pilgrimage centre. The city is famous for the Swami Vivekanand Rock Memorial, Gandhi Mandapam, Bagavathi Amman temple and the Triveni Sangam. Our first visit was to the Rock Memorial. Incidently, the town is named after the goddess Kanniyakumari Amman, a presiding deity who was considered to be the umarried version of Goddess Parvati.
The rock memorial is built in three sections -
Dhyan Mandapam, the meditation hall, which is built with six adjacent rooms.
Shripada Mandapam, the hall with the rock which has Goddess Parvati's footprints engraved on it while she performed tapas in devotion of Lord Shiva.
Sabha Mandapam, the hall with the rock where Swami Vivekananda meditated for three days to attain enlightenment. It encloses a bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda as tall as 7 feet
Next to the Rock Memorial is a 95 feet tall stone sculpture of Thiruvalluvar, Tamil poet and saint Tiruvalluvar, author of the Thirukkural
During 2004, when the southern part of India was struck with the deadly Tsunami, and the waved were recorded to be as high as the shoulder of the statue. The waves apparently crashed the statue and split only to hit the town Kanyakumari. It is said, had the statue not been present, the whole of Kanyakumari town would have been wiped off.
Next up was Gandhi Mandapam. The town boasts of being home to one large memorial dedicated to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. The memorial was built at the spot where the urn of his ashes was kept for the public to pay their homage. After Bapu's death, his ashes were divided into twelve urns and scattered all across the country
Next up was the Triveni Sangamam of Kanyakumari, a confluence of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean and is also known to be a sacred bathing place.
Our trip to Kanyakumari concluded post our visit to the Bhagavati Amman temple, the temple that worship Goddess Parvati, after whom the town was named after. The town commemorates and worshipped the goddess and built this temple as a symbol of devotion and dedication for her.
Our Kerala tour officially began at the state capital - Thiruvanthapuram which means 'The city of lord Ananta'. Our first stop was at the prestigious Padmanabhaswamy temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is considered to be world's richest Hindu temple.
The temple is a mix of Kerala style and Dravidian style architecture which has the principal deity in a 'Anantha Shayana' or sleeping position on the infinite serpent 'Adi Shesha'. This deity is the tutelary deity of the Travancore royal family.
Our next stop for the day was the Jatayu Earth's Centre.
Located in the Kollam district of Kerala, this is identified as the world's largest bird sculpture which is made of soil, stone and wood. The sculpture is built in remembrance of India's one of the most famous mythology - Ramayana.
Jatayu, a vulture demigod, witnessed Sita being abducted by the demon king Ravana and tried to stop it. The bird spread its wings and tried to stop Ravana, but the demon king chopped off his wing. The bird spent is final moments here and is said to have died after narrating the story of Sita's abduction to Sri Rama and Lakshman.
Jatayu was recognized to be the first women protector and the center is also known as women's safety center. This place also has a quaint temple dedicated to Lord Rama with two idols, bigger one is gold plated while the smaller one is made of Panch Dhatu - Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron and Lead.
We further drove to Allapuzha aka Alleppey for our stay. The weather in Kerala during our stay was drizzly and we also experienced a little thunderstorm post one of the most beautiful sunset I ever saw
Day three was packed with indigenous activities - sailing through backwaters and Kerala art forms. We started our day with a boat ride in Allapuzha backwaters followed by a traditional lunch
Post our lunch we were headed to Thetkkady , a town closest to the Periyar National Park. On our way, we made a quick stop at the Kumily spice village for spices shopping. On our visit to Thekkady, we were scheduled for the last stop of the day- the two famous yet long lost artforms of Kerala - Kalaripayattu and Kathakali. Sharing a few pictures from the acts
Our stay at Thekkady ended the following day with a visit to the Periyar National Park. The National Park is home to tigers and a significant elephant population along with rare-lion-tailed macaques, sambar deer, leopards and Indian bison. The national park can be explored by boat rides.
Next up was the most awaited destination - Munnar, a hill station on the Western Ghats. The name Munnar means three rivers, referring to the confluence of three rivers - Mudirapuzha, Nallathani and Kundali.
Munnar is widely known for its tea plantation. All of the tea plantations in Munnar have been leased by Tata for 90 years thus helping the town population with employment opportunities. These plantations are named after two Mudhuvan tribesmen Kanan and Devan and the tea is manufactured by a company names Kanan Devan Hill Plantation.
Munnar used to be a developed town with supporting infrastructure during the British era. The town wan connected by railways and also had a ropeway for effective transportation only to be destroyed during the 1924 floods.
Famous sightseeing at Munnar include Mattupetty dam, Sun Moon Valley and Eravikulam National Park. Mattupetty is named after Mattu meaning Cow and Petty meaning grazing land. This dam is a popular for its speed boat ride and occasional wild elephant sighting.
The specialty of the Sun Moon Valley is the fact that the forest across the Mattupetty reservoir has an echoing effect
Next stop for the day was Eravikulam National Park. This national park was built as a reserve forest for the Nilgiri Tahr, which find home in Switzerland and in Munnar.
During the course of evolution of the Alps, different species happened to split apart from the ancestors of mountain goats and travelled east through Kurdistan, Caucus and Iranian mountain ranges. They further crossed Pamir and the Hindukush ranges to reach the mighty Himalayas and were subjected to evolution due to weather condition. Due to extreme weather patterns such as drought and ice age, these species migrated to the western ghats and are now known as the Nilgiri Tahr.
Munnar is also famous for shopping flavored tea and coffee along with spices. Another must try activity in Munnar is to experience the famous massages which draw inspiration from the age old ayurveda.
Our last stop of the trip was Kochi where we explored the city on foot starting with the Saint Francis Church. The church was the first European style church built in India and is known to be the laying place for Vasco da Gama,
Further we visited the port to see the Chinese fishing nets and visited the Dutch Palace. The Dutch Palace was built by the Portuguese and gifted it to the king of Kerala and was later renovated by the Dutch.
And lastly we visited the Jewish Synagogue, also known as the Pardesi Synagogue which was built by the European Jewish people who travelled from Babylon, Spain.
Kerala is widely knows for its lush green landscapes, multiple communities existing in harmony, rich historical heritage and umpteen delicacies. Additionally, the states draws its description 'God's own country' from a mythological belief which states that Lord Parshuram, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, threw his axe into the vast sea to develop land for his followers to reside peacefully, thus giving birth to the state of Kerala.