Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Thiruvananthapuram District

Thiruananthapuram, the jewel in the emerald necklace that Kerala is for the Indian sub-continent, must surely have Parasuramanbeen a "must see" destination for ages, long before National Geographic Traveller classified it as one. Surely long before Sage Parasurama , according to local legend, threw his divine battle axe from Kanyakumari to Gokarnam to wrest Kerala, God's own land, from the Varuna the sea god; before the times of Mahabali  the democratic and just ruler of this wonderful land who was sent down to the netherworld through deceit. It doesnt take any flights of fancy to imagine that this land fired the imaginations of intrepid travellers and explorers like Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo, Fa Hien, and quite possibly, countless others from the pages of history, recorded or not.

Thiruvananthapuram, or Trivandrum, as it was conveniently re-christened by the English, is the southern-most district and Thiruvananthapuram city is the  district headquarters as well as the State capital of Kerala. Thiru Anantha Puram, or the city of the Holy Anantha,  is named after Ananthan, the cosmic serpent with a thousand heads, on whose coils Lord Mahavishnu reclines. This iconic representation is theSri Padmanabhaswamy  chief deity in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The temple was built by King Marthanda Varma  of the Travancore Royal family when, in 1745, he shifted the Travancore capital from Padmanabhapuram  in the south (today in the neighbouring State of Tamil Nadu) to ThiruvananthapuramKing Marthanda Varma  and started reigning as 'Padmanabha Dasa', the servant and representative of Lord Padmanabha--perhaps a nobler variant of the 'Divine Right Theory' that the West is familiar with . The vast temple complex, with its tall 'Gopuram' decorated with detailed carvings reflected in the huge temple tank, is today a centre of attraction for the pious, the tourist and the merely curious. 

Thiruvananthapuram, built on seven hills, has today grownHillsinto a sprawling metropolis; but thankfully the city still retains her past glory and charm, and in spite of the frenetic pace of modern life, perhaps it is the most sedate of the big cities of the State. The people too have retained their friendliness and hospitality, and communicating in English, Hindi or Tamil is as easy as it is in the native Malayalam, whether one is talking to a retired professor or to the man in the street. But be prepared for a 'dose' of highly individualistic observations though-- a hallmark of the Malayali that has enabled him to adapt and to survive the Tsunamis of alien cultures and ideas, and all things 'modern'. The old quarter East Fortof the city clusters in and around the East Fort, a protected landmark that dates back to the Royal days. The rightly famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple , the Navarathri Mandapam, where the annual musical fest is held as an offering to Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning , Kuthira Malika, a uniquely wonderful example of traditional architecture and the venue of the annual Swathi Thirunal music festival honouring the composer-king of Travancore are the best among the traditional structures that adorn the Fort enclave. The Mahatma Gandhi Road, the chief artery of the city, is lined by traditional mansions that proclaim the grandeur of the times past and modern high-rises that testify to the city's newfound affluence and a brashly commercial taste --red tile and timber vying with concrete and glass. What perhaps is special about the ambience of Thiruvananthapuram is the wonderful blend of the strongly traditional, the nostalgically Colonial and the outright modern elements, be it in architecture, in food or in the dress and manners of her people. The city's spirit of 'live and let live' is nowhere more evident than at Palayam (the Garrison, the seat of the old Cantonment), where threeConnemara Marketcentres of worships of three faiths rub shoulders--the ancient Ganapathy Temple (ostensibly built by the Maharajah for the prosperity of the Connemara Market nearby), the Palayam Muslim Mosque (get the correct name) and the Palayam Christian Cathedral (get the correct name) church with its distinctive Gothic tower.

Blessed with a pleasant climate virtually throughout the year, Thiruvananthapuram city sparkles after the monsoon rains.Monsoon Rains After the 'hot' summers, which thankfully pale in comparison to the 'hotspots' of India, the welcome summer showers augur the festival season when Kerala decks herself out, and traditional colours and rhythms and characters straight from the pages of her ancient lore entice the visitor to another world. The festivities are crowned by Onam , the Spring harvest festival, today marked by traditional fare throughout the State, KADHAKALIincluding the spirited race of the picturesque and majestic snake boats , the grand elephant parade, when hordes of caparisoned pachyderms lend an air of fantasy to the setting, and the special presentations of Kathakali , Mohiniyattom , Koodiyattom  and other traditional arts of Kerala.  etc etc 

Trivandrum District Map :

Sri Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple –City’s best-known landmark. Deity is 18-ft image of Vishnu reclining on celestial serpent Anantha. 16th century temple, has 368 sculptured stone pillars & mural paintings. 100-ft high gopuram in Dravidian style built by Travancore Maharaja in 1733.

Museum complex & zoo – Napier Museum, Shri Chithra Art Gallery (has paintings by Ravi Varma) and zoological-cum-botanical garden.

Kuthiramalika (Puthenmalika) Palace Museum – Built by the musician king Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. Paintings and other collections of the royal family.

Kanakakunnu Palace – Palace with landscaped garden illuminated after sunset. Shanghumukham Beach (8 km) – Beach near airport. Has indoor recreation club, matsya kanyaka (35 m long mermaid sculpture), starfish shaped restaurant & children’s traffic training park. Sunset watching. Water is polluted by urban effluents.

AKKULAM Boat Club (8 km) – Picnic spot on backwaters; Boating, park, swimming pool. VELI Tourist Village (8 km) – Picnic spot. Veli lagoon meets Arabian sea here. Boating in backwater lagoon, 18-acre waterfront garden with modern sculptures, floating bridge.

THIRUVALLAM (10 km enroute to Kovalam) – Serene backwater stretch. Canoe rides in backwaters. Has temple to Parasurama, the legendary founder of Kerala.

KOVALAM (16 km) – Most visited beach in Kerala – popular since 1930s. Comprises three adjacent crescent beaches. Accommodation to suit all budgets. Several ayurvedic centres. Handicraft and souvenir shops.

Chowara beach (south of Kovalam) - Virgin beach; new tourist destination with several heritage and ayurvedic resorts.

Vizhinjam (Fishing port south of Kovalam) - Has Rock Cave – 18th century granite cave temple with loose/incomplete sculptures/reliefs of Vinandhara Dakshinamurthy, Shiva and Parvathi. Also, marine aquarium.

Poovar – Known for Poovar Island Resort & Wilson Beach Resort.

VARKALA (40 km) – Beach resort & pilgrim centre. High cliffs with mineral springs near coastline. Several resorts & hotels. Nature Care Centre offers yoga & massage. Sivagiri Mutt atop Sivagiri hill has Samadhi of Sree Narayana Guru, religious & social reformer. Papanasham beach with 2000-year old Janardhana Swamy Temple.

Anjengo (Anchuthengu) (36 km) – Historical town between Arabian sea & Anjengo Kayal. East India Company built a fort with the permission of the queen of Attingal in 1695. Beach, ruins of fort and flag staff, tombs of Dutch and British are some places of interest.

Aruvikkara (16 km) – Site of a mini dam supplying water to Thiruvananthapuram. Ancient rock shrine dedicated to Bhagavathi, on the banks of Karamana river.

NEYYAR Wildlife Sanctuary & Neyyar Dam (32 km) – Popular picnic spot. Crocodile farm, lion safari park and boating in Neyyar dam reservoir.

Agasthyarkoodam – 1868 m ASL peak, part of Neyyar Sanctuary. Accessible by foot from Kottor near Neyyar Dam, Trekking with permission.

Meenmutty falls – Situated in Neyyar Sanctuary.

PONMUDI (61 km) – Hill station 915 m ASL. Deer park nearby. Golden valley – scenic viewpoint with natural springs. Trekking trails.

Koyikkal Palace, Nedumangad (18 km enroute to Ponmudi) – 15th century double storeyed Nalukettu building with gabled roof, museum of folklore & numismatics.

PEPPARA Wildlife Sanctuary (50 km, deviation enroute to Ponmudi) – Rich flora & fauna. Rugged terrain with rivulets.

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