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About Kerala

Kerala is sandwiched between the LakshwadeepSea and the Western Ghats. It is a bustling little green and silver, coconuts-and-water state on the west coast of India. It is bounded by Karna taka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the east, and the Arabian Sea to the west. Thiruvananthap uram is its capital. 

Every district in Kerala has it's own unique cu-
lture and characteristics. Thiruvananthapur-
am is known for it's beach- Kovalam, the Sri
Padmanabhaswamy Temple and various mu-
seums and palaces; Alappuzha for it's back-
waters, Trichur, the cultural capital, Kottay-
am for it's ancient churches, Kozhikode for
it's old world charm and the entrancing Po-
nmudy or Golden valley

The highland district of Kerala with its mou-
ntains, valleys, dams, forests, wildlife, orc-
hids, streams, scenic points, trekking trails,
sanctuaries, hill stations and lakes, you co-
uld call Idukki - God's Own Hideaway. 

A tropical paradise of undulating palms and
warm sandy beaches, Kerala is a narrow strip
of coastal territory sloping down from the We-
stern Ghats in a riot of green, luxuriant veget-
ation. Said to have been carved out by axe-
wielding Parasurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu
, it is still a land of ancient charm and mystery.

Kerala is also one of the richest states in India with forests and plantations of rubber, cashew, and coconuts everywhere. The meeting place of many cultures, Hindu and Muslim, Christian and Jewish, Kerala has a particularly rich heritage of dance and drama (Kathalkali, Koothu, Mohiniattam and other temple arts originated here) and her people are among the most industrious and well-educated (100% literacy late) in the country. 

The climate is equable and varies little from season to season. The temperature normally ranges between 27º and 32º C in the plains but drops to about 21º C in the highlands. Winter - 32 to 20 º C. Kerala is strongly buffeted by both the southwest and northeast monsoons. Rainfall in many parts of the state exceeds 118 inches. The best season to visit Kerala is between October to March.

Kerala has several interesting historical spots and adventure sport centers, besides picturesque spots almost everywhere along the long coast and the inland hills. It is no wonder then, with its abundance of offerings for the discerning tourist, that Kerala has emerged as one of the leading Indian destinations of late. The region is also very rich in terms of culture: two of the country's most important dance forms: Kathakali and Mohiniattam have their roots in Kerala.

The people here are of the Dravidian racial stock, almost equally divided between Hindus, Muslims and Christians. North Kerala is predominantly Muslim, whereas Cochin and parts of South Kerala have sizable Christian populations. The language and culture is fairly universal.

Kerala is a land of great natural beauty. From the majestic heights of the Western Ghats the country undulates westward presenting a vista of silent valleys clothed in the richest green. Among the many rivers that glide across the plains to merge their waters with the Arabian sea, the more important are the Periyar, the Pamba and the Bharatha puzha. The elegant waterfalls at Athirampally near Trichur is a popular tourist spot.

Along the coast, sand dunes shelter a linked chain of lagoons and backwaters the still waters of which are studded with sea-gulls and country canoes plying at a snails pace. The silence of the clear skies is broken only by the coos of koels, a type of cuckoo, and the frequent flutter of cranes perched on the embankments.

The highest peak of peninsular India Annai Mudi is located in this state. The scenic Thekkady Wild Life Sanctuary is a popular vacation destination for nature lovers. The climate is equable and varies little from season to season. The temperature normally ranges from 80 to 90 F in the plains but drops to about 70 F in the highlands. The state gets its due share of both the southwest as well as the northeast monsoons, and the rainfall is heavy, averaging around 118 inches annually. 

Kerala, a kaleidoscope of mesmeric charms enthralls a traveller with some of the most romantic natural resources in the world - sun. filtered glades of palm trees, shimmering beaches, dense tropical forests, rocky coasts, still bays, astounding rivers and an intricate maze of back waters. 

Kerala is believed to have been created when Parshuram, a rishi after killing 21 evil kshatriyas, prayed to God to give him a secluded place to perform his penance. The Gods decided to give him the land he chose. So Parshuram threw his axe into the sea in a wide arc and commanded the water to recede. The land that rose dripping from the sea became Kerala, the verdant strip of land bounded by the hills of the Western Ghats on its eastern edge and by the Arabian sea on the western edge.

Enclosed within is a land, criss crossed with the mussed back waters, interspersed with rice fields, rich in wildlife, and bursting with cashew, coconut, coffee and rubber plantations and a medley of spices like cardamom, pepper, turmeric, and ginger.

Land of Contrast cut of the rest of the country by the Sahyadri mountain ranges, Kerala is replete with legends which reveal a rich culture which is extremely well depicted in its distinctive forms of dance, drama and temple arts. Kerala has a very cosmopolitan history graced by visitors like St. Thomas, the Apostle who established the earliest Christian Colony in Kerala in 52 A.D. He was followed by Syrian Christian settlers from Alexandria whose cathedrals and churches still attract large congregations and for which the state is called the Vatican of the East.

Vasco da Gama landed near Calicut in 1498. Christians, Muslims and Jews all found a welcome in Kerala, as did the early Phoenician, Greek and Roman Traders. Standing mute witness to the multi-layered international history are the ancient Hindu Temples standing serenely side by side the gaily painted colonial style churches and splendid mosques. There is also a synagogue built in 1568 in Cochin, reflecting a small but significant Jewish presence. Palaces of Maharajas, converted into hotels and museums, soften the harsh memories left behind by the colonizers




Thiruvananthapuram  (Trivandrum)
Trivandrum is the sea-side capital of Kerala. It is surrounded by numerous hills and hillocks on which stand buildings and parks. Thiruvananthapuram i.e. Trivandrum literally means the place of sacred snake, Anant. Trivandrum is a city of magnificent buildings of ancient and modern architecture.

The Trichur district, in central Kerala has a rich history and has been prized property for several of the local regents. It was the capital of the ancient state of Cochin, then captured by the Zamorin of Kerala. It was subsequently lost to Tipu Sultan during his incursions into Kerala. Finally, after English devastation of Tipu's Mysore empire, it went into the hands of Raja Rama Varma Thampuram who is considered the architect of Trichur the way it stands today. 

Trichur has since been one of the main centers of Malayali culture in the state. The centuries old Vadakkumnathan temple here plays host to a colourful Pooram festival here and the Kerala Sangeetha Natya Academy and the Kerala Sahitya Academy are both situated in Trichur. Cheruthuruthy nearby is also famous for its Kathakali and Mohiniattam dance academies.

Also, at Irinjala kuda, there is a festival where elephants are dressed up and paraded amid major pomp. Trichur is known for its fantastic Pooram festival every summer, which is easily the most extravagant festival in the state. It can be reached by road from Cochin or directly by trains coming in from the north.

Calicut, the most important city of Malabar region of Kerala, was a leading trading centre for spices on the West Coast of India during the medieval period. Ruled by the Zamorin dynasty, Calicut found a place in World History with the discovery of sea route to India in 1498 by the Portuguese navigator Vasco Da Gama.

Kovalam (12 km.) 
Kovalam is also perfect for beach activities - swimming, watersports and suntans. It is one of the most important watersports parks in the country. Getting to Kovalam is easiest through Trivandrum. There are several buses hourly, and taxis can also get you there, directly from the airport. 

The beaches at Kovalam first started catching serious attention around the 1980s, when tourists were looking for another beach haven like Goa further north. Today, the silver sands just fifteen minutes south of Trivandrum are possibly the hottest movers on the foreign tourist's agenda. The long shoreline is beautifully coated with thousands of tall palm trees, and the waters are crystal clean. With tourist attention being directed towards Kovalam, the economy of the beach city has grown with leaps and bounds. 

The handful of small hotels and cottages has now boomed into one five-star hotel, several swanky hotels and cottage complexes. But what is most striking is that despite the entry of major tourism commerce, Kovalam has still retained its pristine beauty. There are several ayurvedic massage and therapy options available at Kovalam, and one of the main reasons people come here is to enjoy the fantastic therapeutic massage.

Kovalam is also perfect for beach activities - swimming, watersports and suntans. It is one of the most important watersports parks in the country. Getting to Kovalam is easiest through Trivandrum. There are several buses hourly, and taxis can also get you there, directly from the airport. 

The palm lined backwaters of Kottayam are growing in popularity as tourist vistas. Best described as a small commercial town, Kottayam upon first sight seems an ideal place to live in, with the sprawling bungalows touching the clean tree-lined backwaters. Situated about an hour and a half from Cochin, Kottayam has long been associated with Syrian Christians who were said to have landed here in the first century AD. Till date, Kottayam's economy is dominated by the Comumaram Jacobs and the estate-owning Syrian Christians.

There are also a few interesting temples like the Thirunakkara Shiva temple with its exquisite dancing hall, and murals and the old churches of Valiapally and Cheriapally which list among the oldest in the country. Only 12 km from Kottayam is the Vembanad Lake, on the banks of which is the Kumarakom bird sanctuary. This, besides being a great place to see some rare species, is also an ideal spot for backwater cruises, fast competing with Alleppey for supremacy in backwater cruising. Kottayam is best accessed through Cochin by air, or directly by train, though there are more trains going to Cochin, so you may want to travel to Cochin and then proceed by road. 

This is the highest hill station in South India, and one of the best in the entire country. It is pristine, and has some of the freshest, most aromatic wake-up calls in the country, its unpolluted tea-flavored air. It is the only major hill resort in Kerala, and is quite popular among the Malayalis (Malayalam speaking natives of Kerala) who have been considerate enough to keep it in perfect uncommercialised shape. There are plenty of pleasant little places to stay in the vicinity, especially the well kept bungalows of the estate owners. If you know a 'mi casa su casa' benefactor, nothing like it. The nearby Anamudi peak, at 2695 metres, is the highest point in South India. 

Cochin is the commercial capital of Kerala. It has a natural harbour and is a very busy port. It is said that as far as 2000 years ago, Cochin was being used as a major trade centre by foreigners who used to buy spices from here. Cochin has its own share of architectural history. Unlike North India, the structures here are derivatives of western art.

There are Jewish, Portuguese, Dutch, Syrian and English influences in the works here. Christianity came to India 1900 years ago through Kerala. It is also believed that the Chinese came to Kerala, a fact documented through the existence of Chinese fishing nets in Cochin. Today, Cochin is one of the largest ports in India and is a booming business centre.

Though it has its share of big city poverty, the levels are surprisingly lower than in other Indian cities. Cochin is also the most convenient base for backwater cruises. Even though it has one of the most important ports in the country, it hasn't lost its laid-back small-town flavour.

There is a general sense of purpose about the people here (who are very friendly and accommodating) but there still isn't much that could stop them from an afternoon siesta. It is also worth knowing that this is the state with the highest literacy rate in the country.

Ernakulam is more like a twin city of Cochin. It is just an extension of the Cochin, the mainland connected via bridges to the islands that constitute part of the city In fact, one would hardly differenciate between the two anymore.

Ernakulam has all the trappings of an about-to-boom metropolis, and in great likelihood, with the speeding development of South Indian states, it seems that in a decade, it would have an economy equivalent to that of Hyderabad or Pune. 

Ernakulam has been the centre of educational reform in the country and it has one of the highest adult literacy rates in the country. It also has a sizable Non-Resident Indian population, sending in foreign exchange from the Gulf and the USA. 

It has been known to produce much of the educated elite of the country, and one of the reasons that Ernakulam and Cochin are likely to find themselves placed in the world map soon is its constant contribution to the technological fields. Some of the best nuclear physicists, electronics engineers, computer programmers and even social thinkers in the country have been products of these parts.

The town is most closely associated with the art of Kathakali, one of the country's most spectacular dance forms. Most performances deal with excerpts from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, the two Indian epics. Kathakali is easiest recognised by the incredible and ornate get-ups of its performers, the colourful masks and facial make-up, and the huge costumes. 

Alwaye, near Ernakulam, is a sleepy town, with little else than its military establishments. It is nevertheless green and beautiful, and the quaint army bungalows make it all the more pleasant. It is known for its famous Shiva Lingam, which is the centre of activity during the annual Shivaratri festival.

Quilon, or Kollam, as it is now known, is an old coastal town which has been a major trading post for several centuries. Besides its trading in medieval days with the Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs and Romans, it is also known in more recent history as one of the biggest trade outpost for the European colonists. 

Today it is at one end of the most popular backwater route, the Alleppey-Quilon wade. There are a few interesting churches here and a famous lighthouse at Thangassery. Quilon is known for its cashewnuts, which are exported in huge quantities. 

There is a beautiful beach at Kochipilamoodu, which thanks to its remoteness is frequented only by locals, practically undiscovered by tourists yet. Interestingly, the Malayalam (Kerala) calendar is calculated from the day that the city of Quilon was established.
It is about 65 km to the north of Trivandrum and can be driven to easily in just over an hour. It is also a major railhead in the southern railway


EXCURSIONS (from Cochin)


Guruvayur (109 km.) 
Famous for its ancient shrine of Lord Krishna which attracts a large number of devotees everyday. The annual temple festival is held in February / March. "Krishnattam" dance which is the precursor of Kathakali dance is performed here. 

Alwaye (21km.)
An ideal place for swimming in the river Periyar. The annual Shivaratri Festival is held on the banks of the river and is a colourful celebration. The centre of attraction is the Shiva Lingam on the sand bank.

Kodungallore (32km.)
Kodungallore (Cranganore) was in older times, the premier sea port on India's west coast. It was the capital of Cheraman Perumal, St. Thomas is believed to have landed at Kodungallorein 52AD. The king's palace, the famous Bhagavathi temple, the Portugese Fort & the old mosque, are situated nearby. 

Alleppey (64 km.)
The centre for backwater cruises in Kerala. It has a large network of canals which, passes through the town. It has a long sandy beach. It is the centre for coir production in Kerala. Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held on the 2nd Saturday of August every year. 

Thekkady (190 km)
It spreads over 777 sq. kms, it lies at an elevation of 914m to 1828m above sea level on the Periyar lake in the hills of western ghats. It is the finest sanctuary for watching & photographing Indian wild elephants. Elephants, bison, spotted deer, sambar, bears, etc. can be seen in their natural habitat by cruising on the lake in motorboats which can be hired from the Manager, Aranya Nivas, Thekkady.

Sabarimala (209 km.)
Famous for its forest temple dedicated to Lord Aiyappa, it attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. Many pilgrims lead a rigourous & austere life for a period of 41 days prior to visiting the temple. 

Kottakal (168 km.)
Nearest railway station Tirur (16km). The Arya Vaidyasala here is well known for its special Ayurvedic treatments & massages for human ailments. 

Munnar (136 km.)
The highest (altitude 1524m) town of Kerala, with a cool bracing climate. The atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea & cardamom plantations. There are enchanting high ranges, lakes, streams & beautiful views of low flying clouds. The highest peak of South India Anaimudi (2595m) is close by.

Cheruthuruthy (110 kms away from Kochi)
Cheruthuruthy is about 110 kms away from Kochi. It is the base of the Kerala Kalamandalam- the famous art and dance academy where training in various traditional forms like Kathakali, Mohiniyattam etc is imparted.

Kalady (45 kms away from Kochi)
Situated 45 kms from Kochi,on the banks of river Periyar. Kalady is the birthplace of Saint Shankaracharya, the monotheist Hindu philosopher. He is by and far one of the greatest Hindu reformers. He lived in the 8th century AD and died at the early age of 32 years. He traveled throughout India, on foot, debating with scholars and spreading his theory of Advaita or monotheism.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Elephants, bisons, antelopes, samburs, monkeys and bears can be found in their natural habitat in this world famous wild life sanctuary.



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