Friday, 28 November 2014

Alappuzha

Alappuzha is a Land Mark between the broad Arabian sea and a net work of rivers flowing into it. In the early first decade of the 20th Century the then Viceroy of the Indian Empire, Lord Curzon made a visit in the State to Alleppey, now Alappuzha. Fascinated by the Scenic beauty of the place, in joy and amazement, he said, Here nature has spent up on the land her richest bounties. In his exhilaration, it is said, he exclaimed, Alleppey, the Venice of the East. Thus the sobriquet found its place in the world Tourism Map. The presence of a port and a pier, criss -cross roads and numerous bridges across them, a long and unbroken sea coast might have motivated him to make this comparison.

Alleppey has a wonderful past. Though the present town owes its existence to the sagacious Diwan Rajakesavadas in the second half of 18th century, district of Alappuzha figures in classified Literature. Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala with the unending stretch of paddy fields, small streams and canals with lush green coconut palms , was well known even from the early periods of the Sangam age. History says Alappuzha had trade relations with ancient Greece and Rome in B.C and in the Middle Ages.

Carved out of erstwhile Kottayam and Kollam (Quilon) districts, Alleppey district was formed on 17th of August 1957.The name of the district Alleppey, the anglicized form was changed as ‘Alappuzha’ as per GO(P) No.133/90/RD dated 7.2.90. It is assumed that the name of Alappuzha was derived by the geographical position and physical features of the place which means ”the land between the sea and the network of rivers flowing into it". As per GO (MS) No.1026/82/(RD) dated 29.10.1982, Pathanamthitta district was newly constituted taking portions from the then Alappuzha, Kollam and Idukki districts. The area transferred from the erstwhile Alappuzha district to Pathanamthitta district is Thiruvalla taluk as a whole and part of Chengannur and Mavelikkara Taluks. Thus the present Alappuzha district comprises of six taluks namely Cherthala, Ambalapuzha, Kuttanad, Karthikappllly, Chengannur and Mavelikkara.

Palaeolithic Age
The history of the district in the palaeolithic age is obscure. It is presumed that the coastal taluks of Cherthala. Ambalapuzha and Karthikappally might have been under water and these areas were formed by the accumulation of silt and sand later than the other parts of the district. Kuttanad was well known even from the early periods of the Sangam age. The early Cheras had their home in Kuttanad and they were called 'Kuttuvans' named after this place. Some archeological antiques like stone inscriptions, historical monuments etc. found in the temples, churches, rock-out caves etc., and literacy works like "Unninili Sandesam" give some insight into the ancient period of this district. The famous travelers Pliny and Ptolemy of the first and second centuries had mentioned about places like Purakkad(Barace) in their classical works. Christianity had a strong foot-hold in this district even from the Ist century A.D. The church located at Kokkomangalam or Kokkothamangalam was one of the seven churches founded by St.Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. It is generally believed that he landed at Maliankara in Muziris Port, presently known as Cranganore or Kodungallur in 52 A.D and preached Christianity in South India. During 9th to 12th century AD the district flourished in the field of religion and culture under the second Chera Empire. The famous literary work of this period was ‘Ascharya Choodamani’ a Sanskrit drama written by Sakthibhadra who was a scholar of Chengannur gramam.

16th Century
During 16th century small principalities like Kayamkulam (presently Karthikappally and Mavelikkara taluks), Purakkad which was often called Ambalappuzha or Chempakasseri(present Ambalappuzha and Kuttanad taluk) and Karappuram comprising of two principalities called Moothedath and Iledath (present Cherthala Taluk) emerged into power. In the same period the Portugese came into prominence in the political scene of the district. Christianity became popular in all parts of the district and they built several churches of which Churches located at Purakkad and Arthungal are well known. The kingdom of Chempakasseri was at its zenith during the reign of Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayana, a great scholar and a poet who was the author of ‘Vedantha Retnamala’, a commentary on the first verse of Bhagavat Geetha. It is said that Sreekrishna Swami temple at Ambalappuzha was constructed and the idol of Lord Krishna installed during that time. It is believed that Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, Sri Neelakanta Deekshithar and Sri Kumaran Namboothiri were eminent scholars who patronized his court.

17th Century
In the 17th century the Portugese power declined and the Dutch had a predominant position in the principalities of this district. As a result of several treaties signed between the Dutch and the Rajas of Purakkad, Kayamkulam and Karappuram, the Dutch built factories and warehouses in various places of the district for storing pepper,ginger etc. In course of time they inferred in the political and cultural affairs of the district. It was at that time Maharaja Marthandavarma, the ‘Maker of modern Travancore’ interfered in the political affairs of those principalities. The annexation of the Kingdoms of Kayamkulam, Ambalappuzha, Thekkumkur, Vadakkumkur and Karappuram to travancore gave the Dutch a setback from the political scene of the district. Marthandavarma Maharaja had a remarkable role in the internal progress of the district. He gave special attention to the development of Mavelikkara as an administrative as well as a commercial centre. The Krishnapuram plalace, which is now a protected monument of the State Archaeology department, was constructed during that period. It was at that time that the great and talented poet Kunjan Nambiar was installed in the court at Trivandrum.

Modern Alleppey
During the reign of Dharmaraja the district was improved by all means. Raja Kesava Das, the then Diwan of Travancore who was known as the ‘Maker of modern Alleppey’ made Alappuzha a premier port town of Travancore. He constructed several roads and canals to improve communications and built warehouses. He gave all facilities to merchants and traders from far and near. During the reign of Balaramavarma Maharaja, Velu Thampi Dalava took keen interest in the development of the town and port. He brought the whole area of the island Pathiramanal under coconut cultivation and large tracts under paddy cultivation. The role of Velu Thampi Dalava in the development of Alappuzha is worth mentioning. In the 19th century the district attained progress in all spheres. One of the five subordinate courts opened in the state in connection with the reorganization of the judicial system by Colonel Munro was located at Mavelikkara. The credit of having the first post office and first telegraph office in the erstwhile Travancore state goes to this district. The first modern factory for the manufacture of coir mats and mattings was also established in 1859 at Alappuzha. The town Improvement Committee was set up in 1894.

Freedom Struggle
This district had a prominent role in the freedom struggle of the country. The campaign for the eradication of untouchability was organized much earlier in this district by T.K. Madhavan, a fearless journalist and in 1925 the approach roads to the temples, especially to Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Swami temple were thrown open to the Hindus of all castes. The district also witnessed the ‘Nivarthana’ movement which was started as a protest against the constitutional repression of 1932. the first political strike in Kerala was held at Alappuzha in 1938.

Punnapra-Vayalar

The historic struggles of Punnapra and Vayalar in 1946 stiffened the attitude of the people against Sir C.P.Ramaswamy Iyer, Diwan of Travancore, which ultimately led to his exit from the political scene of Travancore. After India became independent, a popular Ministry was formed in Travancore on 24th March, 1948 and on Ist July 1949 Travancore and Cochin states were integrated and the position continue till the formation of Kerala State on Ist November 1956 as per the States Reorganization Act 1956. The district came into existence as a separate administrative unit on Ist August 1957.

Alappuzha District Map :



ALAPPUZHA TOWN – ‘Venice of the East’ – situated on the banks of a network of canals, lakes and lagoons. Hub of houseboat operations and backwater cruises: from Alappuzha to Kollam, Kottayam & Kochi. Famous for Nehru Trophy Boat Race (Aug) and Tourism Snake Boat Race (Jan).


Alappuzha Beach – Long sandy beach. First light house on the west coast, built in 1862. Pier extending into the sea is about 140 years old.


Vijaya Beach Park – picnic spot with children’s park & boating facilities. Sea View Park has boating facilities & swimming pool.

Mullackal Rajarajeshwari Temple – “Navarathri” festival is celebrated with procession of nine elephants. Cultural programmes including Ottan thullal are staged.

Latin Catholic Church – One of the oldest churches.

Kottamkulangara Mahavishnu & Devi Temples – Two temples in same compound. Mahavishnu temple was earlier situated in a pond, which is now covered with sand.

Marari Beach (15 km north)– Known for Marari Beach Resort

Chavara Bhavan (6 km from Alappuzha) – Ancestral home of the blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara. Accessible only by boat. 250-year old beacon of light is preserved here.

Punnapra (near Alappuzha) – Memorial to Punnapra – Vayalar uprising (1946) - bitter struggle between communists & Travancore State Police.

St. Mary’s Church at Champakulam – Believed to be one of the seven established by St.Thomas, the apostle. Annual feast in October.

PATHIRAMANAL (14 km) – 10 acre picturesque island on Vembanad lake accessible only by boat (from Kumarakom & Muhamma). Covered with greenery & visited by rare migratory birds. Name means ‘Sands of midnight’. International backwater resort is to be developed here by Oberoi Group.


Kuttanad region / Q,S,T and R Block Kayals (canals) – ‘Rice bowl of Kerala’ in the heart of the backwaters between Alappuzha & Changanassery. Farming is done 1 to 2 m below seal level on land reclaimed from backwaters & protected by dykes. This amazing feature can be observed through leisurely cruise along the inland water ways.

Arthunkal (22 km north, near Cherthala) – St. Andrew’s Ferona Church established by Portuguese missionaries in 1851. ‘Arthunkal Perunnal’ –St. Sebastian feast is held in Jan.


Kokkomangalam Church (near Cherthala) – Established by St. Thomas.

Ambalappuzha (14 km south) – Has Sree Krishna Temple, built in typical Kerala style. Temple has paintings of Dasavatharam on inner walls of Chuttambalam. Famous for Palpayasam – milk porridge offered to the deity. Annual festival in March/April. 16th century poet Kunjan Nambiar staged his first Ottan Thullal, a satiric solo dance performance here.

Karumadi (3 km east of Ambalappuzha) – Famous for its Karumadi Kuttan, a black granite figure of Buddha said to belong to the 9th - 11th century.

KRISHNAPURAM PALACE near Karthikapally (47 km) – This 18th century palace was built during the reign of Marthanda Varma of Travancore. Double storied structure of typical Kerala architecture – gabled roof, dormer windows, narrow corridors. Famous for one of Kerala’s largest mural paintings (14 ft x11 ft) depicting Gajendramoksham. Also has museum of sculptures, paintings & bronzes. Protected by State Archeology Department.


St. George Church at Edathua (24 km) - Established in 1810; located on the banks of Manimala river. Believed to heal mental disorders and other ailments.

Mannarsala Sree Nagaraja Temple, near Haripad (32 km) – Ancient temple of serpent god Nagaraja & consorts – Sarpa Yakshi & Naga Yakshi, in a panoramic 16-acre wooded site. Presided over by a priestess. Popular with women seeking to have a child.

Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple near Mavelikkara (5 km east of Kayamkulam) – Temple of Bhadrakali, supposed to possess miraculous powers. Famous for Kettukazhcha festival (February/March) – procession of tall decorated chariots, with brightly adorned images of horses, bullocks and epic heroes; cultural performances.

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