Every year on the second Saturday of August, Punnamada Lake in Alapuzha backwaters become a scene of snake boat races that hurtle towards Nehru trophy. Spending millions of rupees and a months long practice, oarsmen come to Punnamada Lake to exhibit their prowess, splashing through the waters.
Ever since Jawaharlal Nehru, then Indian Prime minister visited Punnamada Lake in 1952, the competition has been known for his name. In its 65th edition inauguration ceremony, all teams lined up for a mass drill and the Punnmada Lake was filled with boats and each team wore uniforms in yellow, blue, red, white etc. Light blue was the theme color for this year .
And they moved towards the starting point, cheered by hundreds of vociferous onlookers. The Chundans (snake boats) resembles a girl running over water with silver anklets ( kolusu) on her feet .
It was time for a vibrant show by the Indian Navy.
Dozens of houseboats filled with spectators marked the boundaries in the palm-fringed Punnamada Lake. And the oarsmen plough through the water and thousands of people line the banks of Punnamada lake cheering them and the silence of the lake is sliced by the slashing oars of the pacing boats. When they advance through the tracks, it appears like fast moving snakes.
The rowing of boats was accompanied by Vanchipattu ( boat songs). The boat is rowed to the rhythms and beats of the songs sung by these singers. The course is 1.4 km ( 0.9 miles) on the Punnamada Lake. Twenty chundans took part in the race in five heats carrying 20 to 100 rowers on board having a length of about 100-120 ft.
A team of women in traditional Kerala dress along with men who provided rowing support, caught every eye !! .
Other class of boats which competed were Chrulan, Iruttukuthy, Odi, Veppu and Vadakkanody.
It was getting dark. Onlooker's on the sides of lake waved their mobile phones with lights. After 3 rounds of loser's final, Gabriyel Chundan emerged the winner in the photo finish of the final race.
Hundreds of cell phone lights at the banks of the Punnamada Lake
After years of planning , I finally got an opportunity for a trip to Rameswaram. Since it was not possible to see everything that we wanted to see, we decided to focus our trip on three places - Madurai, Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. We finally left for Rameswaram from Kochi on the evening of November 23rd.
Our route was via NH 45 Adimali/Theni/Kambam/Madurai
24.11.2018 - Day 1
It was around 9 am, when we reached Madurai. After Chennai, Madurai is the biggest city in Tamil Nadu. After refreshment and breakfast, we reached the South Gopura of Madurai Meenakshi temple. The temple was surrounded by shops and hotels. The temple has four towers or 'gopurams, with entry gate each and are engraved with beautiful sculptures of demons and gods. You are restricted from carrying cameras, mobile phones, bottles and food. The temple provides free cloak/footwear room near to the South Gopura.
South Gopura of Madurai Meenakshi temple
The temple complex has many mandapas (pillared-halls). Near to the South Gopura is a sacred temple tank , called Porthamarai Kulam ("Pond with the golden lotus"). Surrounding the temple tank, there were 64 pictures of Shiva's Thiruvilayadals (miracles). On the western side of the tank, you can see a small portico where you can see a portion of 17th and 18th century paintings of Nayak period. It depicts the marriage of Sundareswarar and Meenkashi attended by Vijayaranga Chokkanatha and Rani Mangammal. After prayers, we visited Thousand Pillar Hall and it contains 985 (instead of 1000) carved pillars.
Prayers over, we returned to the hotel and checked out. Next up was Paazhamudur Cholai Temple. Before boarding the bus, we bought some sweets from age old shops who sells Halwa made up of pure ghee and sugar.
Reached Paazhamudur Cholai Temple at around 11 am which is considered as one of the six important abodes of Lord Muruga. . It is situated atop a hill covered with dense forests, and there were many monkeys around the temple.
Paazhamudur Cholai Temple
Coming out, I could see a long queue to collect food which was donated by an organisation.
Next up was Rameshwaram. By this time, it was lunchtime and we were searching for good restaurants along the way, which seemed hard especially in rural Tamilnadu. Finally, we stopped at one hotel near Sivakasi. With lunch over, we pushed on towards Rameswaram. The road was good with less traffic. Once everyone settled in the bus, our coordinator put one Malayalam film.
It was 6 PM when we reached the Pamban Bridge. The Pamban bridge - Road bridge and the Railway bridge - connects the shores of Mandapam and Pampan - the starting point of Rameshwaram island.
The bus dropped us in the middle of the bridge and allowed us to walk till end of the bridge. We could see the area built across the rail bridge where boats passes through and the bridge would lift up when the boat comes. We could see Fish Landing Centre from the bridge. By that time sun started to set creating a mixture of orange, yellow and dark blue hues.
Sun set view from Pamban bridge
Our accomodation was arranged in Hotel RSN International located in Sannadhi St and is a walk-able distance to the Temple and the Agni Theertham. I was tired after a long journey. After dinner, me and one of my co traveller walked around the temple to photograph the stunning views of Gopura and the life around the temple. There were small tea shops and hotels around the temple selling tea and food. Cows were roaming around the street which reminisce me of the Varanasi streets.
11.00 pm. time to bed. Went back to hotel. It was worth to spend the night in a hotel located near to the temple and the beach. Last goodbye to day's hectic travel, quick shower and off to bed after a fantastic day.
25.11.2028 - Day 2
In the early morning at 5.30 our guide reached our hotel to help us to take bath in Theertham and other rituals. Wearing white Dhoti we walked towards Agni Teertham. First we visited the Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Statues of Sri Adi Sankara with his four principal disciples is located at the top of the tower, facing the sea. The Life History of Adi Sankara is depicted in the form of carvings on the tower.
Sri Sankara Matam, Rameswaram
Agni theertham sea is located just 50 meter from the Rameswaram temple. Those who wanted to take sacred bath should first take bath in Agni theertham and followed by bath in theerthams inside the temple. The ghats were caught up in the early morning bustle. Facilities are available for those who wanted to take holistic rituals such as tharpanam(ritual for the ancestors who were dead). After bath, all of us went ahead to Rameswaram temple in wet cloths for holy bath in 22 wells.
Agni theertham sea
After bath in 22 wells inside the temple, we came back to hotel to change our dress. Then proceeded to temple visit.
Ramanatha Swamy temple
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple premises. You can take special pass for Rs.50. A huge Nandi idol is placed in the entrance. We were about to hear an interesting story from our guide.The Shiva lingam of Lord Rameswaram is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is believed that Sri Rama worshiped the Shiva Lingam of Lord Siva. After Ravana's death, Lord Rama came to Rameshwaram with Lord Sita and decided to worship the deity of Shivalingam and perform pooja to save his sins. But Hanuman was unable to bring Shivlingam on time. But Sita created one Shivlingam by spraying salt water into the sand of the sea and the same was installed at that moment. After that, Hanuman arrived from Kailash with Shiva Lingam. It is believed that seeing the face of the sad and angry Hanuman, the new shivlingam was placed near to the shivalingam of Sita. Since Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, worshiped the Shiva Linga (Shiva) by his own hand, the Vaishna Saiva Vedanta devotees comes to pray here. It is believed that if you pray in this temple, all sins will be washed away.
We walked through the third corridor, which is said to be the longest pillared corridor in the world with its 1212 pillars. The carvings on the pillars have been painted in bright colors.
Arrived back to hotel, checked out, left our luggage inside the bus. After a leisurely breakfast, moved out to visit Dhanushkodi.
Since heavy vehicles are not permitted to Dhanushkodi, we hired a small van. Dhanushkodi is around 20 Kms from Rameswaram. When the van crossed the city limit, I tried to remember the tragedy that happened to Dhanushkodi 56 years back. It was on 22 December 1962, when the clock turned 23.55, one passenger train with around 150 people was crossing Pamban to Dhanushkodi, when suddenly a strong wind followed by heavy rain washed out Dhanushkodi and the train drowned in the high tides and all of the passengers died. Two villages and port city vanished and 1800 humans died from Pampan island. Entire Dhanushkodi was wiped out. Dhanuskodi is declared as a ghost town by the government after this natural calamity.
The road was empty and we could see only travelers along the way. Both side of the road were tied with big stones to protect from waves.The left side of the road is Indian Ocean and right side is Bay of Bengal.
Road ahead to Dhanushkodi
When Dhanushkodi approached, we could see people living in bamboo houses.
Fishing is the main occupation. There are many shops on both sides of the road.
Dhanushkodi was a major port city in Bengal cost since British rule. It has port, railway station, water tank, post office, church, temple , hospital, school , hotels and other shops. Now we could see only ruins. It was also famous for people coming here for Bali karma.
On the left, we saw the remains of the old railway station.
Old Railway Station, Dhanushkodi
Near to the Old railway station is an old Tank.
Old Tank, Dhanushkodi
You can see parts of the old mosque on the right side of the road. They are many stalls near to the mosque which sells Shakh and chippi.
Old mosque, Dhanushkodi
Wading through stories, we finally reached the tip of Dhanushkodi. The bus dropped us at the end of the road and it is the last turnaround of South India. The area was crowded with people and vehicles. In the middle you can see an Ashoka Stupa. This is the place where seas Indian ocean (A sea with high tides) and Bay of Bengal (the low tide sea) merges. This is the land border of India and Srilanka which is nearly about 15 kms from here. It is believed that Ram Sethu was built from here to Sri Lanka.
tip of Dhanshkodi
People from the locality were selling cut fruits, nuts etc. and they do not have any other income sources in this place. Before heading back to Rameswaram, try to taste those fruit cuts - mango, pineapple , etc. from local people.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Monument
This is the last place in our chart before leaving Rameswaram. It showcases memories from the life of Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. Curious to know more, I entered the museum with high expectations. Dr. Kalam's life is depicted through portraits. Statues of Dr. Kalam in presidential suite, in sitting and standing, last moments in his life is also displayed here. In another section, personal belongings of Dr.Kalam, sample model of missiles and rockets with which Dr.Kalam had worked are also displayed. Photography inside the memorial is prohibited for visitors. If you complete the inside views, the outdoors are perfectly sublime.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Monument
After lunch we started our return journey. When we crossed the Pampan bridge, we could see lots of peacock's in the railway track.
I have explored Munnar in many trips. But this time, the feeling was different. The road ahead to Munnar had been further narrowed, following the recent floods and landslides. At many places, all along the road, safety barriers have been constructed. Vehicles were moving in one line in most of the places. The remains of landslides will make you feel uncomfortable. The recent floods has consumed literally the whole of Kerala state. But people had begun to travel to Munnar to view and enjoy the Neelakurinji bloom in Munnar hills.
It was in 2006 that the Neelakurinji bloomed in Munnar hills. Neelakurinji season arrive only once in 12 years. This year the flowers bloomed a bit late and rains, flooding and week long fog also affected the longevity of the flowers.
We started our journey at around 6 am to Munnar which is around 117 km from Kochi. Along the way we stopped at Cheyappara Water Falls.
Our next stop was at View point. There is small hut and you will get tea and snacks. You can go down after taking nominal entry fee. From here you can admire the beauty of valley and hills.
We reached Munnar at around 1 PM. After lunch we rushed to Eravikulam National Park also known as Rajamala. It is situated just 8 kms from Munnar. You can also take ticket from the counter of sports council stadium, old Munnar. After taking the ticket you can board the bus arranged by Eravikulam national park by paying Rs. 20 and within 15 minutes you will reach Eravikulam.
Fifth mile is the entrance of the Eravikulam National Park. It has visitors launch, drinking water, bio toilet display boards and parking facility. After taking the entry ticket , further travel is by safari bus arranged by Park authorities till view point. Entry time is restricted from 7:00 am to 4.00 pm. Entry Fee is Rs.120/ for Indian Adults and Ordinary Camera charge for Rs. 40/-
The road ahead to view point is narrow and two buses cannot cross at a time. The scenery on both sides of the zigzag road is marvelous. Rolling hills and emerald green tea plantations sprawling across horizon make for a picture postcard setting. You can also see some Neelakurinji flowers on the road side.
The bus will go till view point. Further you can walk through the tar road about two kilometer to the top. When we cross the security check post, the guard informed us that plucking of Nilakurinji flower is illegal and will be charged Rs.2000/-. These flowers, when in bloom, cover vast areas over the hills and the surrounding landscape.
And we walked through the narrow road enjoying beautiful Neelakurinji i flowers on one side and the wilderness of the nature on the other side. When I searched for the Neelakurinji flower over the internet, it looked like blue or pink color flowers, but in real it looks purple color.
The presence of Nilgiri Tahr, the endangered mountain goat is one of the attractions that attracts travelers. They wander through the mountains by eating plants and ambling down the hills is a sight to behold
You can also find all kinds of flora and fauna which are marked by placing boards near to them which provide details of these flowers. Some of them are, Kattumunthiri ( Robus ellipticus), Sundew Plant, Blechnum orientala, Anaphalis subdecurrens, Kattu Thumba ( Leucas vestita) and Kurinji( Strobilanthes pulneyensis ).
All you can do is to enjoy the scenery arranged by nature.
After more than a month of busy schedule, I happened to travel through Thrissur and Palakkad districts in the Indian State of Kerala. The recent floods has caused untold damages to roads and houses. It was saddening to see the places affected by landslides which took the lives and livelihood of many people. On my way to Ottapalam from Shoranur, I stopped at Varikkasseri Mana. It is situated just one kilometer from Manisseri. Visitor car parking inside the compound is not allowed. I parked my car on the road side. Entry ticket is Rs.20. The entry is actually through the back side of the building.
I was walking towards the house which I had seen only in Malayalam cinema till date. 'Theertham' was the first Malayalam film shooted here. But director IV Sasi's Malayalam film 'Devasuram' made this house an important location in Malayalam cinema.
Actually known as Varikkumanchery Mana, it was constructed 112 years back by Varikkasseri Ravi Namboothirippad. The family owed its allegiance to the Zamorin of Calicut. The yellow painted structure including Poomukham is constructed after 30 years. The design of Poomukham is different with long pillars. One member of the family - Krishnan Namboothiripad also known as 'Shilpy Thampooran' designed this building. He studied fine arts in Madras and his influence is reflected in the design of Poomukham.
And I sat on the steps of the 'Poomukham' trying to imagine the unforgettable scene of Devasuram - Mangalasseri Neelakandan sitting in a chair and the dance performance of Bhanumathy. I made a conscious decision to wear a blue shirt and 'Mundu' and I wanted to be photographed like Neelakandan.
'Poomukham', Varikkasseri Mana
As you wander around the Verandha (hallways) and various halls, you will step into artworks on every corner. The main door is facing western side and the art work on the door is awesome. The Verandha is elevated differently. You can watch wooden roofing and pillars with art work. Red hand cut bricks are used on the boundary wall.
The main door is open to Padijattini - the place for entertainment. It is spacious and the roof is designed in solid wood with art work. The main attraction of this house is the main Nalukettu.
'Nalukettu', Varikkasseri Mana
There is a wooden stair to reach the first floor. There are two other stairs like this. There is a big hall and a bed room next to the hall on the first floor. Roof are made up of wood and all rooms have enough ventillation. You can watch many exit doors and most of the doors are not opened for public . You can have the view of 'Nadumuttam' from all rooms . I spent hours just wandering around, enjoying the wooden work on the roof and view from rooms. Rooms are cool enough and this is how ancient people lived here. This is really a palace.
And I came out of the main building and walked towards the building left to the main building. This building has two pathayappura and the main pathayapura is constructed in Victorian style. Earlier there was a bridge connecting this building with the main building and removed it later. You will get a good view from the balcony. The Malayalam film 'Thooval Kottaram' was also shot in this building. You can also see this building in the film 'Devasuram'.
'Pathayappura', Varikkasseri Mana
It also has a Sreekrishna temple, a marvelous large pond with kulappura (a building at the pond-entrance). Entry to the temple is not allowed to visitors. Some scenes in the Malayalam films 'Aaram Thampuran' and 'Drona' shot here.
Total 170 films shot here in all languages. Visiting time is restricted between 9.30 am to 3 pm. Do not miss this place if you are traveling between Shoranur and Ottapalam.
For the last two months I could not make any travel. Some unprecedented events in my life made it hard to just pick up and take off. After arriving at Chelakkara, a village in Thrissur district, in the Indian state of Kerala, for two weeks, I had been looking for an opportunity to visit some places nearby. At last, one of my relatives took me to Poolakund waterfalls, in his motorbike.
Poolakund falls is around 3 kms from Pangarapilly Junction, on the way to Elanad. The road deviated to Poolachodu from the main road. The road was muddy when you are close to Poolachodu and was no less than a foot-path. From the road, walk along the water stream into woods. There was nothing spectacular about the place. When you walk, stop and enjoy the sound of nature. The path is generally easy to walk and the walk is pleasant as you stroll through the forest.
The day was cool and sombre. Shortly we could hear the sound of the falls and huge rocks covered the waterfalls. The first few steps beneath the falls are natural stone steps. From here you can view the falls perfectly.
From there you gain a lovely view, looking upstream, of the cascading falls. The walk at the foot of the falls provides several superb vantage points for sight seeing.
Better to avoid walk on the rocks beneath the falls. Enjoy the beauty all around and listen to the gurgle of the water from the falls. It is perfect for picnics and observing nature. Return the way you came after viewing these cascading falls.
Monsoon is the best possible time for trekking. But there is another reason for selecting the less talked about Mankulam. The caves have a lot of interesting stories which gives us lot of curiosity. One such interesting unexplored caves are found at Mankulam. Moreover the climate is turning more pleasurable by the passing days and forest streams are now gurgling with crystal clear water.
Mankulam is just 126 kms from Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala.
We were informed that our base camp was at Chinnar Chappath ( also named as Chinnar Kuthu ) which is just one km before reaching Mankulam town. We parked our car near one of the road side house and started climbing through coffee plantations towards our base camp. A huge waterfall amidst the forest and plantations welcomed us. There was a huge rock structure which was fenced and a metal ladder was placed to reach the top.
We were almost beneath the waterfalls. We saw a huge rock. And we walked little ahead and saw our base camp. It was constructed at the back side of the rock and the rock itself is used as wall of the building. It had all basic amnesties like two bath attached rooms, kitchen and verandah.
After having lunch, we were ready to spend a good, long part of the day in exploring the forest and the caves and soaking in the best of what the season has to offer.
Cave ExplorationWe set off into the forest. There are ten hidden caves in this area and there is no legend associated with these caves. This is a naturally formed cave system. These caves are set amidst dense evergreen forests of the Western Ghats and cascading waterfalls. There were two caves near to our base camp. After crossing two caves, you'll have to cross a small stream coming from cascading waterfalls. The water is chilling but at the same time refreshing.
After a few minutes into the trek, we realized we were lost as there was no trail to be found. The forest cover was thicker than ever.
We were totally clueless about the route even with our guide along. We could not find the trail leading to the caves. And we reached nowhere.
The only way was to climb the rock. We started climbing the difficult path. The path became more dangerous and alarming and it involved a bit of elementary rock climbing. The trail was challenging, steep and an excellent place to test your endurance. However the experience was thrilling as the trail went through dense forest cover and stream crossings before reaching the hidden caves.
Since it was monsoon season, the waterfall gushed down with force inside the cave and all of this just made for one enthralling experience.
Descending from the cave was a little tricky. You have to go down through a narrow hole, only one person can crawl at a time. Walking and bending and even crawling at certain places through the pathways, tires you out. But this is a great experience if you are looking for some adventure and thrill.
One we reached the base camp, we decided to stroll around the Mankulam village. Mankulam is a very scenic small village. There are some resorts for accommodation. Reached back to the base camp and had a bath in the pool under the waterfalls. It was enough for me to wiped out the day's tiredness.
After a heavy dinner and chit chatting, it was time for camp-fire and tent setting. Few of the team members slept in the base camp and others preferred tent stay above the rock structure. This area can accommodate around 10 tents at a time. I slept in my tent in the verandah. The reason was to keep others from my thundering snoring. I retired to my tent. The sound of the waterfall that is constant music to the ears and cool breeze that started blowing, lulled me into deep sleep.
We woke up at the break of the dawn. TrekkingThe peaceful forest trail starts from the base camp and winds up along gently towards the plateau. First few kilometers takes you through the plantations. As you ascend, the forest open up to numerous vistas. Continuous chirping of birds and the sound of the wind echoing in the forest is constant music to the ears. Further the trail goes through Shola forest, crossing several small streams.
From the top you will get a picture-perfect backdrop of Mankulam village. We rested here for some time and every one was busy taking photos and selfies and they tried to get as close to the edge as much as possible.
Further was a series of streams with water so crystal clear, cool and pure for drink. I breathed deeply and sniffed Ayurvedic herbs. I filled my bottle from a natural spring.
At last, we left the jungle and returned to the base camp.
Its name, as it turns out, is the most dramatic thing about Bhoothathankettu. The dense forest cover of this place, shrouded in myth and reality, starts appearing as soon as you cross the Periyar Barrage in the new Bhoothathankettu Dam. The dam is a vantage point from where you can spot the turbulent water rushing from the dam towards the Old Bhoothathankettu. It is situated 50 km away from Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala. Explore : Old Bhoothathankettu & Reserve ForestIf you like to walk, trekking to old Bhoothathankettu is a great experience crossing small springs by the side of the Periyar river. The walk starts from the end of the Periyar Barrage. This is also the entrance of the Edamalayar hydroelectric project. The walk is conducted by Bhoothathankettu ecotourism. This place is under Malayattoor Forest division, Thundathil Range. Since this is a guided walk, you will get an opportunity to know the forest and nature.
Entry time is restricted from 9 am to 4 pm. Entry ticket is Rs. 20 for adults, Rs.10 for Children and Rs.50 for Foreigners. Only two restaurants are available in this place and you will get tea, snacks and ice creams. There are also vendors selling ice cream, peanuts and chips.
During the walk, you can see a cave tree, a huge cheeni tree and other forest trees.
But the most interesting attraction is a big cave inside the forest. Since this is a rainy season, the path to the cave is slippery and a temporary bamboo ladder is placed to help visitors enter into the cave.
Even though the entry is short, one can stand straight inside the cave. This can accommodate hundred people at a time.
The debris of huge stone are visible here which were used to identify the direction.
Once you reach old Bhoothathankettu, you will be surprised by the majestic beauty of the Periyar flowing through a big gap between the rocks. If one more rock was there, the flow could have been arrested completely.
There is an interesting mythological story about this place. Demons wanted to destroy the Thrikkariyoor Temple of Lord Shiva by building a dam, and started rolling huge rocks towards the riverbed in the thick of the night. The God, however, decided to fool the demons by creating an illusion of dawn. The demons fearing the arrival of light fled the place . He saw the boulders which the demons were supposed to have rolled onto the riverbed, the Old Bhothathankettu . The Periyar flows on through the narrow space which the demons did not quite manage to dam up .
The reality is that the gigantic rocks rolled down from the mountains during the landslides caused by floods of the 4th century and become entrenched in the Old Bhoothathankettu. In 1790 Tipu with his army camped on the banks of the Periyar river at Aluva. To prevent his evasion, a small group led by Vaikom Padmanabha Pillai and Kunjai Kutty Pillai went upstream and managed to break the walls of a dam at Bhoothathankettu causing heavy flash floods downstream Periyar river.
Those who visit the area should not venture into the river for swimming since the under currents are very strong and the water deep in some areas.
Birdwatchers will be thrilled by some of the species found here. This is a kind of place you would go to listen to the nature. You can occasionally hear the leaves hustle with the wind or the sound of the birds. You can watch a wonderfully quaint hut set into the breathtaking countryside of old dam.
The trek takes one hour and is suitable for anyone. BoatingBoating for 10 km is also offered at Bhoothathankettu dam. During the ride, one can witness the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary too. Entry fee is Rs. 150 for one person for one hour . Entry time is restricted from 8 am to 5 pm. The area around the boating facility is landscaped with tree houses, a children's play area and a restaurant.
Nestled amidst the lap of nature with thick forest on one side and cultivated coconut and rubber trees on the other side, it is a sight to behold. We were in the constant lookout for elephants, deer, sambar, and wild dogs but had no luck.
You can also witness Chelamala, the remnants of summer palace of Chola kings during the boat journey.
A view of Periyar River from the boat
We saw few resorts by the side of the reservoir.
A view of Bhoothathankettu Dam from the boat
A trip to this picturesque place is the perfect way to soothe the Big City nerves.
Thattekad is the first bird sanctuary in Kerala, India. In 1933, during his Travancore Cochin Ornithological survey in Thettekad forest, DE.Salim Ali recognised the avifaunal richness of the area. As recommended by Dr.Salim Ali, in 1983, an area of 25.16 Sq.km. covering forest, wetlands and rivers at Thattekad was notified as Kerala's first Tropical community bird sanctuary. It is located just 12 ms from Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district of Kerala. Nine sq.km is for habitation and rest of 16.16 sq.km is available for sanctuary and is very rich in flora and fauna.
There are many ways to explore Thattekad. Here visitors are allowed to walk through the jungle. Visitors can also opt for a boat trip in the reservoir offering unusual point of view of the forest. Approximately twelve thousand species of birds are spotted in the world of which 1200 species of birds are found in India and 593 species of birds have been spotted in Kerala. Thattekad bird sanctuary alone has 322 kinds of birds and forty percent of them are long distance migrant birds - approx 160 - come from outside. They come from Siberia , Canada etc by crossing the Atlantic. First they land in China and then cross the high Himalayas before coming to south India. Last year they found a group of birds from Thekkady - Bar-headed goos - it is found in thousands in Himachal . Here there are only 200-300. There have also been sightings of internal migrants from Kashmir, high altitude places like Munnar etc.
The area is a part of the western Ghats. Anamudi is in the eastern side of Thettekad bird sanctuary and is the second highest hill with 8863 ft height. Distance from Thattekad to Anamudi crest is about 22 kms only. The slope from Anamudi and climate influence caused multiple flaura . Habitat diversity and topographical position of the area is the main reason to make it bird rich. Naturally migrant birds fly from west to east. Due to high altitude they are forced to land here where sufficient foods, breeding facility etc is available .
BUTTEFLY PARK MUSEUM
Butterfly Garden is one of the attraction for the visitors in the santuary. The Garden is studded with different flowers and butterflies.
Besides these winged beauties, Thettekad has all major mammals as well. It is home to one Tigress, four leopards with one cub etc.
It is also home to 28 species of frogs. In 2008, a new species of frog was spotted with its nose like tortoise and body like frog. A sliding frog is also visible. This place is home to reptiles too. It is common to spot king cobra. Different kinds of chameleons are also available .
The joys of walking through this untamed landscape include spotting orchids. Twenty seven kind of orchids are available, most of them are mild orchids.
The area is rich in flora and fauna. Each forest has its typical plants. This kind of combination is the first in the world. There are more than 1000 plants. 60% are of medicinal value. This is truly an Earth's green pharmacy.
The sanctuary is famous for fish diversity. 55 kind of fish found in Thattekad. The sanctuary is bordered by the river Periyar on the southwestern side and its tributary Pooyamkutty river on the northern side.
A minimum of 1-2 days camping is required to understand the entire area.
Boating in Periyar
WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THATTEKAD Jungle Night camping Salim Ali Nature Trail Boating in Periyar
Fort Kochi is known for its beaches, Chinese fishing nets, historical buildings and cafes that serve European food. But also dotting the cultural remnants of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English.
The first European township in India was built as a fort city by the Portuguese. Before the Dutch destroyed Fort Immanuel in Fort Kochi, it had seven bastions. Even though you can no longer actually see the Fort after which the town is now named, but you can watch the barely existing fort walls and its old bastions. A guided walk on a Sunday morning is the best time to uncover the city's history. The walk started from Vasco da Gama Square. You can watch Chinese fishing nets and fresh fish stalls in this place.
The walk goes through Jawahar Park. Since the British period, this area has been used by the public to spend their evenings. The British administration erected a tower like machine here to measure the power of the wind
OLD HARBOR HOUSE
Old Harbor House
Once you cross the park, you can see the old harbor house. This old bungalow, built in 1808 belonged to Carrit Moran & Co., renowned tea brokers. Now they have converted the bungalow into a hotel.
Koder house is next to the old harbor house. This building was constructed in 1808 by a Jewish patriarch, Samuel Koder of the Cochin Electric Company. Now this three -storeyed building has been converted into a heritage boutique hotel.
existing fort walls
Soon you will reach K B Jacob Road where you can see the remains of the fort walls. This wall is considered to be the boundary of the Fort.
SANTA CRUZ BASILICA
Santa Cruz Basilica
Santa Cruz Basilica, the original Catholic Church in Fort Kochi, was built by the Portuguese in 1505 and named as a cathedral in 1558. The current structure dates to 1905 and was made a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
Behind the Santa Cruz Basilica, you can see a structure which has been considered as a Vihara and now it is kept as a monument.
The walk goes through K L Bernard Master road where you can find fort walls, now part of private property.
Indo-Portuguese museum in Fort Kochi is located in the compound of Bishop House. It showcases Portuguese influence in Kochi and is famous for it's collections from various churches. It is considered as one of the seven bastions of the Dutch Fort.
This magnificent bungalow was built on the sea side, facing Gelderland Bastion, one of the seven bastions of the Dutch Fort.Thakur House was earlier known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow.
THE DUTCH CEMETERY
The Dutch Cemetery
The Dutch Cemetery is now managed by the Church of South India and is the testimony of the European community at Fort Kochi. This was constructed in 1724.
FORT KOCHI BEACH
Fort Kochi Beach is one of the favourite tourist destinations in Kochi. You can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Arabian sea or take a stroll on the walk-ways. The walk-way extends till the famous Fort Kochi fish market. It is considered that the remnants of the forts are buried under the layers of sand of the Fort Kochi beach.
ST FRANCIS CHURCH
St Francis Church
St. Francis Church is believed to be the oldest church built by Europeans in India. This was the burial spot of Vasco da Gama, who died in Cochin during his third visit. Later his remains were taken back to Portugal.
Surrounded by impressive century old trees and old buildings, the four acres of Parade Ground was used by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British to conduct military drills and parades. Today it is the largest open space in Fort Cochin and serves as a public sports ground.
Located in Fort Kochi near Parade ground, this was a British club till Indian Independence. Presently, it is open to Club members.
VOC logo on VOC Gate
Facing the Parade ground is a large gate with the initials VOC. The monogram, which is dated 1740, represents the once mighty Dutch East India Company, which had its offices here for almost 150 years.
Vasco House is believed to have been the residence of Vasco Da Gama until his death in 1524. The original high wooden ceilings, old stone-staircase, and a series of typical European glass-paned windows have been maintained to this day.
Originally one of the seven bastions of the 17th-century Fort Immanuel built by the Portuguese, this bungalow was built by the Dutch using one wall of the original fort. In keeping with the architecture of the region, it has a tiled roof, and long wooden verandas, and today, functions as a heritage museum.
Built in the 16th century, Padmanabhapuram Palace seems to have resisted the sweeping march of time. On the Thuckalay-Kulasekharam route, turn from Thuckalay to the Palace, which is just one km from Thuckalay. For many, the palace is a pitstop on the way to Kanyakumari from Thiruvananthapuram. The palace has a handful of families who have lived here for generations. I was walking towards the biggest wooden palace in Asia. The Palace is nestled by the bustle of shops and hotels. A walk after crossing the main entrance takes you back to the reign of royal kings of Travancore. The first sight of the palace was impressive. Once you enter the large lawn, you can watch a 300 year old clock which still keeps time.
Our first stop inside is 'Poomukham', where the king entertained special guests. The entrance of this building is shaped as a triangle and it showcases the indigeneous architechtural style of Kerala.
The most striking feature of the building is the wooden ceiling, where ninety flowers have been carved and each of them is unique.
Another attractions in the 'Poomukham' are Kuthira Vilakku ( hanging brass lamp with a knight on horse-back), a Chinese chair presented to the King by a Chinese merchant and the 'Onavillu' presented to the King as tribute by landlords and cheiftains of different clans during the Onam festival.
First floor of the building is 'Mantrasala' ( King's Council chamber), which is decorated by wooden window grills and beautiful craft work of wooden ceiling. This is the most impressive part of the palace.
Mantrasala ( King's Council chamber)
The floors throughout the palace are in shades of bone white, rich earthy brown and black. The ingredients of the floor include egg shells, lime, tender coconut water, coconut oil etc. The coloring added by using,coal from burnt coconut shells, for black, red hibiscus and henna for brown and egg shell and lime for ivory.
Next to the Mantrasala is Oottupura ( Dining Hall ), a two-storeyed building, which can accommodate over 1000 people at a time in each floor.
Oottupura ( Dining Hall )
At the farther end of the hall is the exit. Next our stop was at 'Thai Kottaram' also known as mother palace. This Nalukettu style building was built during the reign of Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal.
Next up is the 'EKANTHAMANDAPAM'. The main attraction in this building is 'Kannithoonu' a ceiling supporting pillar built of jack fruit tree.
And then there was the majestic King size bed- a wooden cot made up of 64 different pieces of wood which are of medicinal quality. The Queen's dressing room nearby had another cot.
The ceilings were carved out of wood and were a treat to the eyes.
Next up is 'Ambari Mukhappu' which was was built for the kings to view chariot races (temple car's race) during festivals and to appear before the public on special occassions.
Next up is Navarathri Mandapam. Various cultural programes were conducted in this place during the Navarathri festival. The dance floor was polished to mirror-dance perfection so much that it is known as 'Kannadithara' or mirror floor. Separate rooms with 'Kilivathil' ( small wooden windows built in the wall) have been made for the king to view the programmes without being seen by the common public.
After hours of Palace hoping, we came out of the main Palace compound. Then we walked to the Thekke Kottaram Heritage Museum which is adjacent to the Padmanabhapuram Palace. The Thekke Kottaram has three small buildings carved in traditional architecture. One of the buildings has its balcony opening to a pond below. One building houses the heritage museum and the third one used to be a ‘Thekkini’ or place of worship.
Follow the paths of Keralities at heritage museum, where you can see age-old domestic appliances, musical instruments and other artifacts showcasing their everyday life. Padmanabhapuram Palace showcases centuries-old tradition in timeless glory.