Monday, June 8, 2009

Tourist Destinations

• Kochi
• Tekkady
• Munnar
• Allapy
• Kovalam
• Kanyakumari

The magical trip to Kerala begin on the much awaited morning with a flight from delhi to kochi with a stopover at mumbai. The excitement was unmatchable and unhideable. Just thinking of a trip to god's own country - kerala brought glitter in the eyes. It was a magical moment as soon as we stepped on its soil.

A fresh cool breeze welcomed us with a characteristic fragrance in the air at kochi airport. Soon after checking in at the hotel and having refreshment we went out to visit tourist places in kochi.

Cochin (Kochi) tourist attractions include ………..

Chinese fishing nets in Cochin Harbor

The nomenclature of Chinese fishing nets suggests that it has its origin in China. It was introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He. The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin Harbor were set up between 1350 to 1450. The beaches of Cochin are beautifully lined with these Chinese nets. Chinese fishing nets abound in the Vasco-da-Gama Square near the Fort Kochi. They can also be seen in and around Bastion Bungalow, Santa Cruz Basilica and VOC Gate.

Chinese fishing nets in Cochin are locally known as” Cheenavala”. In Cochin, the Chinese nets are suspended in the mid air all along the coast. The nets are set up on bamboo or teak poles and are basically fixed land installations. These nets are horizontally suspended over the sea, giving an appearance of huge hammock. For balance, these nets are counter balanced by stones tied to ropes. Each net spreads over an area of about 20 meters.

The technique of fishing by Chinese fishing nets differs from the technique of ordinary fishing nets. While fishing by Chinese fishing nets, the nets are submerged into the sea, kept for a few minutes and raised delicately at a time by six fishermen. All of these six fishermen must maintain the balance while picking the net out of water.

The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin Harbor has multiple usage. They do form the main fishing accessory in Cochin, but besides this, they also form a major tourist attraction in Cochin. The water body covered with Chinese fishing net at sunset makes a soothing scene to the tourists. From Vypeen to Fort Kochi, the entire stretch is covered with Chinese fishing nets.

St. Francis Church Built in 1503, this Anglican Church is an exemplary evidence of the European colonial struggle in India. The church contains the tombstone of Vasco-da-Gama and it has been the architectural model of numerous churches in India. St. Francis Church has great historical significance. It stands as an evidence of the European colonial struggle in India. In 1503, the then Rajah of Kochi permitted Alphonso Alburquerque to build this fort. Within this fort, Alburquerque erected a wooden church and dedicated it to St. Bartholomew. Dedicating to St. Antony, the church was newly built in 1516. In 1663, the Dutch army invaded the place and destroyed all the churches and convents except St. Francis Church. But in 1804, they voluntarily surrendered it to the Anglicans. Much later, under the Protected Monuments Act of 1904, the church became a protected monument in 1923.

St. Francis Church of Kochi was originally named as Santo Antonio, the patron Saint of Portugal. Though it has hardly any architectural merits, it has been the model of many churches in India. The church has gabled timber-framed roof covered with tiles. The doors and windows of the church have semi-circular arches. The facades are flanked on either side by a stepped pinnacle. The bell turret of St. Francis Church at Kochi is divided into three compartments. Inside the church, the gravestones of the Portuguese is on the northern wall and that of the Dutch is on the southern wall. The gravestone of Vasco-da-Gama at St. Francis Church in Kochi is a major attraction there. Incidentally, after 14 years of his death, the remains were taken away to Lisbon in Portugal.

Jewish Synagogue Among all the common wealth countries of the world, the Jewish Synagogue, Kochi is the oldest existing synagogue. The prosperous Jewish trading community built it in 1568 AD. It was partially destroyed in the 1962 war. Later it was rebuilt by the Dutch. This speaks for the historical importance of the monument.

As far as the architecture of the Jewish Synagogue in Kochi is concerned, it is wrapped with painted Chinese tiles. None of these tiles resemble the other. In the mid 18th century, the clock tower was attached to the main building of the synagogue. The interior of the Jewish Synagogue at Kochi is adorned with Belgian chandeliers and grand lightings.

The monument of Jewish Synagogue of Kochi is rich enough for alluring tourists. But it has some more important attractive collections. The synagogue still has rolls of Old Testament, old copper plates that have souvenirs and records of the privileges bestowed upon the Rajahs of Kochi. These souvenirs also include beautifully carved silver and golden crowns.

The Jewish Synagogue is one of the exemplary sightseeing spots in Kerala. For public viewing, the synagogue remains open from 10 am to 12 noon and again from 3 pm to 5 pm every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Being centrally located in Mattancherry, the synagogue is easily accessible. The nearest airport to the Jewish Synagogue, Kochi is the Cochin International Airport. Ernakulam Junction is the nearest railway station 10 km away and Mattancherry is well connected with metaled roads with the nearby towns and cities.

Dutch Palace This palace is a unique blend of the oriental and the occidental architectural patterns. It is famous for the mural paintings in it. There are three temples inside the palace, each devoted to lord Krishna, Lord Shiva and Pazhayannur Bhagavati- the protective deity of the Royal family of Kochi.
The Palace is more popularly known as Mattancherry Palace. It is located at Palace Road, 10 km from Ernakulam city, Kochi. The palace was constructed by the Portuguese and presented to the then Rajah of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma. The Rajahs of Keralas made subsequent renovations of the palace, giving it a Hindu texture. In fact, it has become one of the best testimony of the Hindu Temple Art.

The Dutch Palace in Kochi is a two stored building built around a central courtyard. This traditional style of architecture is known as 'nalukettus' in Kerala. The entrance of the palace is arch shaped, which leads to the suite of public rooms. The rounded doors and windows, the masonry walls of Dutch Palace gives it a European look.

But the Indian flavor is more prominent in this palace. There is a temple in the courtyard of the palace, dedicated to the protective God of the Kochi Royal family, Pazhayannur Bhagavati. There are two more temples on either side of the Dutch Palace at Kochi, each dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna. The interior wooden panels of Dutch Palace depicts the weapons, headdresses, robes and palanquins of the Rajas of Kochi. The mural paintings of Dutch Palace exhibits epic scenes from the puranic legends like Ramayana and Mahabharata. These paintings are mainly found in the bed chambers and covers almost an area of 1000 sq ft.

Pareekshith Thampuran Museum: Previously called Durbar Hall, this museum houses collections of old coins, paintings and sculptures. It was actually the residence of the Kochi Royal family. It is surrounded by 52 acres of terraced land with a Deer Park. It is the first heritage museum in Kerala.
Hill Museum is an important part of sightseeing in Kochi. Pareekshith Thampuran Museum is a part of this Hill Museum. This archaeological museum is situated inside the Hill Museum. Pareekshith Thampuran Museum is more popularly known as the Durbar Hall in Kochi.

Pareekshith Thampuran Museum of Kochi cover a large area. It is a busy tourist spot in Kochi. But apart from that, the museum has some more significance as well. This museum is of prime importance from the historical and archaeological point of view. So not only the tourists from far and wide, even the historians and the archaeologists flock to this museum in Kochi. Every single day Pareekshith Thampuran Museum is crowded with connoisseurs passionate about numismatic and museology.

The singularity of Pareekshith Thampuran Museum at Kochi lies in the fact that it houses numerous 19th century as well as Mughal oil paintings, ancient sculptures and old coins. This museum of Kochi also possesses rich collection of Royal clans of Kochi of different ages. So Pareekshith Thampuran Museum gives the present generation a fair idea about the cultural and artistic tastes of different ages. When the archaeologists explore the ancient exhibits to dig out more enlightening informations, the tourists are thrilled to look to their past. Moreover, Pareekshith Thampuran Museum has also become an enriching site for the students to collect historical informations and documents.

The authority of Pareekshith Thampuran Museum has allotted time for tourists for their as well as the authority's convenience. It remains open from 9 am to 12.30 pm in the morning and again from 2 pm to 4.30 pm in the noon. The rest of the time the authority has reserved for maintainance purpose.

Pallipuram Fort is one of the heritage sites of Kochi that deserves special mention among the tourist destinations in Kochi. Pallipuram Fort is situated in Ernakulam, one of the districts of south Kerala.

Pallipuram Fort, Kochi was erected by the Portuguese in 1503. The Pallipuram Fort of Kochi is one of the oldest European forts of India which houses a rich cultural heritage. The Pallipuram Fort is situated in the extreme northern part of the Vypeen Islands and heralds a glorious past within the territory of Kochi.

It is said that the Pallipuram Fort in Kochi was captured by the Dutch forces in 1661, but the history of Kochi affirms that the Fort was later sold to the State of Travancore in 1789. Thus, it can be said that the Pallipuram Fort of Kochi has witnessed a number of lords who had once been the master of the territory.

Moreover, it goes without mention that the Pallipuram Fort at Kochi is one of the chief destinations of tourism. The grandeur and rich past of the Fort allures the tourists to pay a visit at this site: tourists from the different parts of the world come to witness the magnanimity of the Pallipuram Fort of Kochi. The tourists, in order to reach Pallipuram Fort, can avail of the ferry service operating from Ernakulam and Kochi to Vypeen: bus services are also available from Vypeen to Pallipuram. So if are in this beautiful place of Kochi, do pay a visit to this ancient fort and unravel the beauty.

Bolghatty Palace This palace in the scenic island was established by the Dutch in 1744. Presently, the palace has been transformed into Kerala Tourism Development Corporation hotel.
Bolgatty Island is one of the finest tourist locales in Kochi. Located beside Ernakulam Island and Eillingdon Island, the place is a favorite tourist hangout. The exotic seas scape and the serene ambiance of the island are worth a visit.

Bolgatty Island of Kochi is a small island which is just a boat ride away from Kochi harbor mouth. The small journey amidst the cool breeze is very interesting. Though the island is accessible only through boat you can take up a train to Ernakulam which is just 2 km away. The nearest airport to Bolgatty Island in Kochi is Cochin International Airport which is about 22 kilometers from this island.

But the main attraction of Bolgatty Island at Kochi is the ancient Bolgatty Palace which was built by a Dutch trader in the year 1744. The palace holds the distinction of the oldest Dutch palace outside Holland. In the year 1909, the Britishers took it over on lease.

At present the Bolgatty Palace at the Bolgatty Island is under the governance of Kerala Tourism Development Corporation i.e., KTDC. KTDC has converted the palace into a heritage hotel with all the necessary luxurious services.

People, who wish to re-visit history, do check in to this lavish heritage hotel at Kochi Bolgatty Island. You can feel the past under the royal ambiance of the palace hotel which proudly boasts of it historical days through its interior decor.

Moreover, the Bolgatty Island is a perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the crowded cities.

• Santa Cruz Basilica Established in 1558, this church in Kochi is famous for the beautiful paintings on the ceiling. The name Santa Cruz Basilica bears a special significance for the Christians residing in the south-western peninsular city of Kochi, as it celebrated the dawn of Christianity in the enigmatic land of India. Legend has it that the Santa Cruz Basilica has been stoutly standing its ground for a mammoth 500 years which is a spectacular feat in itself. Although the Santa Cruz Basilica had suffered ugly bruises at the hand of the robust British invaders in the year 1795, it continues to dazzle the on-lookers with its indelible charm and unparalleled charisma.

On the auspicious occasion of the 500th Anniversary of the Santa Cruz Basilica church in Kochi, the residents of Kochi had celebrated to their heart's content and displayed their love and passion through an entire volley of well-coordinated cultural and religious programs.

Some of the related artifacts in Kochi that also deserves equal appreciation are the cantilevered Chinese nets that were supposed to be used during fishing. In order to restore the charm and splendor of the Santa Cruz Basilica of Kochi, some measures were taken so that the annihilated portions of the church could be reconstructed. This operation commenced from the month of November, in the year 1905.

The most gorgeous features of the Santa Cruz Basilica at Kochi include the incredibly beautiful wooden panels and the pulpit. The interiors of the church are adorned with the propitious presence of some exquisite paintings of Italian origin.

It was Pope John Paul IV who had dowered the Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi with the status of being a cathedral.

Cherai Beach Beaches abound in Kochi. But the beauty of Cherai Beach surpasses all with its swimming facility and coconut groves. Occasional sights of dolphins is also an added attraction.
Approach to Cherai beach has some interesting landscapes. While driving on the highway, we see houses, small towns and plenty of buildings and there is hardly any change in the pattern no matter how long you drive. Turn away and head towards the beach and there is a sudden change in the way the world appears. Dense concrete structures give way to dense coconut forests. See where you can, you only have endless array of coconut trees with a house or two in the middle of them. They are uniformly planted at distances that make their leave just touch their neighbor and eventually block the hot sun from reaching the ground.

There were puddles of water here and there amidst the forest of coconuts, and they probably remain filled through the year. The land looked marshy and it looked as though the sea tried to expand further and left its traces. We drove through this maze of coconuts for a few kilometers before we hit some lakes.

I am not sure if they were lakes or lagoons or just backwaters. Some sections of the waterbody were barricaded, probably to rear fish or prawns. The strip of land between the sea and this lake, which formed the Cherai beach was a narrow landmass which was again inhabited by coconut trees and a few houses. The lake shore had some homestays or lodges which were built on stilts and looked very picturesque. We drove along the narrow land strip along the beach for a few kilometers, and the landscape all the way was similar. After finding a secluded place, we whiled away some time near the beach relaxing.

An hour or so before sun was about to set, we decided to head to Kochi (Cohin), go around the town and then settle down at Fort Kochi for the day.

Apart from these places, other Kochi tourist attractions are Willingdon Island, Gundu Island and Vypeen Island.

Next morning after taking the breakfast we left for Tekkady by road.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

About Kerala

Kerala is blessed with unmatched natural diversity. Within her 38,863, this virtual paradise holds almost all natural habitats and ecosystems like the serene beaches, enchanting backwaters, mist clad hills stations, lush forests, diverse wildlife, exciting trekking trails, scintillating waterfalls, extensive plantations, tropical islands, invigorating monsoons, Ayurvedic health centres, historic monuments, sacred pilgrim centres, magical festivals, spectacular art forms, splendid cultural heritage, spectacular boat races, spicy cuisine …. and lots and lots more. A physical quality of life comparable to developed nations and almost fully literate population in this beautiful land are important factors that help transform Kerala into an important international tourist destination also. Moderate climate and the rich art and culture are also positive factors.

The small state of Kerala, which represents just 1% of the land mass, is considered to be one of India's most beautiful state. It is a very rural state with most of the population living in villages but is culturally and scenically diverse. Kerala has two national parks, ten wildlife sanctuaries and two bird sanctuaries.

Kerala occupies a long (550km), narrow strip of land in the far south of India. Its coastline is on the Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) and its eastern border with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu is the top of the majestic Western Ghat mountains. The landscape varies from long golden beaches to cool hill stations and dense green jungle to bustling cities. Its unique feature is the 1,900km of palm fringed backwaters.

The people of Kerala are warm and friendly and interaction with them is often a highlight of a holiday to Kerala. Keralites have a strong culture and are fiercely proud of their state. Some of their art forms (eg Kathakali and Theyyam) and martial arts (kalaripayattu) are unique.

The State has very high density of Population (819 per and literacy rate (90.92%). It has a effective forest area of about 9400 Kerala receives high rainfall with an average annual of 300cm. There are 44 rivers criss crossing the State and a coastline of about 590km. It has vast extent of wetlands (108,760 ha). The physiography is characterized by varied topography and undulating terrain blessed with lush green vegetation and having high range of biodiversity. Kerala has three international Ramsar sites – Ashtamudi, Sasthamkotta and Vembanad – Kol wetland system. There are 24 Important Bird Areas, 5 National parks and 13 Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Kerala’s fourteen districts are distributed among Kerala's three historical regions and the modern-day districts (listed in order from north to south) correspond to them. They are Malabar (northern Kerala) comprising of Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad; Kochi (central Kerala) including Thrissur, Ernakulam; and Travancore (southern Kerala) covering Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. Moreover, Kerala's 14 revenue districts are further divided into 62 taluks, 1453 revenue villages and 1007 Gram panchayats.