Thiruvananthapuram (Thiru-anantha-puram) literally means the abode of the snake god Anantha. In ancient mythology, it is believed that lord Vishnu rests on this snake god. It was and is also popularly known with its anglicized name Trivandrum too.
Thiruvananthapuram, the southern most district of Kerala state is situated between North latitudes 8º 17′ and 8º 54′ and East longitudes 76º 41′ and 77º 17′. ‘Parasala’ is Kerala’s southern most area and it is just 56 kms away from Kanyakumari, ‘the end of Indian land’. Thiruvananthapuram stretches for 78 kms all along the shores of the Arabian Sea.
It is surrounded by Kollam district on the North and Thirunelveli on the East and Kanyakumari of Tamil nadu on the South. The district is divided into three geographical regions – Highland region, Midland region and Lowland region.
It is made up of four districts namely Chirayinkeezhu, Thiruvananthapuram, Nedumangad and Neyyatinkara taluks. Chirayinkeezhu and Thiruvananthapuram talukas lie in the midland and lowland regions while Nedumangad lies in the midland and highland regions. Neyyatinkara taluka stretches over all the three regions.
Thiruvananthapuram is made of a considerably large forest area. This influences the climate and results in moderate to above average rainfall in the district. It is quite cool in the high mountain ranges but very hot down in the plains. It faces a humid climate which rises to 90 percent during the South-West monsoon. The district gets equal rainfall from both the South-West monsoon and the North-East monsoon. The South-West monsoon begins by June and fades out by September. The North-East monsoon starts in October. The temperature rises to a maximum of 35 degrees Celsius during the summer months of April and May and can go down upto 20 degrees Celsius in the months of December and January.
The National.Highway 47 stretches from the Southern end of Thiruvananthapuram, Parasala to Paripally at the Northern end. The National Highway covers a distance of 80 kms across the entire district. The State Highway (MC Road) covers a distance of 55 Kms and passes through Kesavadaspuram, Vembayam, Venjaramoodu, Kilimanoor and Nilamel in the North. About 1552 kms of road in the district are maintained by the PWD department. Other local bodies maintain 9500 kms of road.
Thiruvananthapuram District boasts of 116 bridges in all.
The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has two circles in Thiruvananthapuram district. One circle is in the city and the other one is at Kattakada. All the villages in the district come under these two circles and have been provided electricity.
Thiruvananthapuram is very well connected to different cities of India and other cities around the world with regular flights. It has one international and one domestic terminal. The Airport has all the facilities required for an international and domestic airport and its runaways can accommodate all types of aircrafts. It is quite adjacent to the beach and is at a short distance of 6 kms from the city centre.
Thiruvananthapuram is also well connected to other cities in the state and other states of the country by the Railway network with a broad gauge line. The district has 82kms of rail lines passing through it.
The District Administration Headquarters are at Vanchiyur, Thiruvananthapuram, at a distance of just 1.5Kms away from the Government Secretariat and the Central Railway station. The District Collector heads the administration with the help of six other Deputy Collectors who are in charge of different departments that include. General matters, Land acquisition, Revenue recovery, Land reforms and Elections.
The District Collector also serves as the District Magistrate and is assisted by the Additional District Magistrate and the Revenue Divisional Officer. Thiruvananthapuram has only one revenue division.
A Tahsildar heads each of the four talukas namely Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyatinkara, Nedumangad and Chirayinkeezhu. There are 116 villages in the district.
There are 84 Grama Panchayats, 12 Block Panchayats, one District Panchayat, four Municipalities and One Corporation in Thiruvananthapuram district. The District Panchayat president is also the Chairman of the District Rural Development Agency and the District Planning Committee.
Parliamentary / Assembly Constituencies
There are two Parliamentary and 14 Assembly Constituencies in the district.
The beaches of Thiruvananthapuram are very famous and are one of the top tourist destination of Indian and foreign tourists. It is the capital of Kerala, ‘God’s own Country’. It is very well connected by Air, Rail and Road. Almost all the countries in the Gulf are connected by air to Thiruvananthapuram, besides being well connected to the rest of India. South East Asia is also connected via a daily flight to Singapore.
Thiruvananthapuram is a Railway Division office and also an important Railway Station. There are daily trains services to places like Delhi, Bombay, Chennai, and Bangalore and weekly trains to other parts of the country. There are daily local train services to almost all major cities and towns in Kerala.
Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is an ancient Hindu temple built in obeience to Lord Vishnu. The temple is in the centre of the city and has a large complex with a huge Gopuram. It has a tank called the Padmatheertha beside it for bathing and other religious rituals.
Kovalam, one of the oldest tourist enclaves, the beaches here have been among the most preferredby the westerners due to shallow waters and low tidal waves since 1930s. Made popular by HerHighness The Queen of Travancore Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bai when she built herself a palace,Haylcon Castle, for herself on the hilltop adjacent to the beach. Years later it was Price G.V. Raja whoinvited Thomas Cook & Sons, UK to develop Kovalam as a potential tourism hub among theforeigners.
Kurumkal Lighthouse, with its 35 meter tall structure, overlooking the spectacular Arabian Sea givesthe area a primeval look. In addition, the favourable climate, picturesque beaches and the privacy itoffers from the outer world, thanks to the rocky hills that surrounds these beaches, is what makesKovalam an internationally renowned tourist destination that it is today!
Flanked by the magnificent towering Ghats to the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, Poovar is an isolated but spectacular beach enveloped in tranquil backwaters. Situated close to the Neyyar River estuary, Poovar is a tropical heaven located at the southern tip of Trivandrum. A trading port in the past, Poovar is one of the fastest growing tourist centres of South India.
The scenic river in the middle of the dense mangrove forest is a great place for boating. The boating activities here are always combined with site-seeing through the river flowing across the hideous mangrove forests, right up to the estuary point. Swaying coconut groves, endless golden beaches, the ultramarine of the sea, emerald backwaters, crimson sunsets and lush green vegetation is sure to create a magical ambience around you
The visual spectacle provided by the stark, skeletal remains of the trees of the mangrove forests that protrude from its waters, and the mists that swirl ethereally over the water in the early morning is indeed mesmerising. Yet another reason why, tourist flock every year to Poovar just for boating. Varieties of boating options are available: Shikara, Speed Boats and Motor Boats for the discerning holiday maker!
Vizhinjam is an ancient port adjacent to the south of Kovalam by about 2kms. The Dutch and Portuguese had commercial establishments here during their rule. It is being developed as a modern fishing harbour and is being developed as an Shipment Container Terminal.
It is on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram about 61 kms away and well connected by road. This is a hill station at a height of 912m above sea level. There are many tea estates and rubber plantations and panoramic view points around the hills.
Veli Lake has a lot of water activities developed for the tourists. Tourists can avail of pedal boats, speed boats and row boats provided by the Boat club and enjoy the serene beauty of the Veli Lake.
The Kanakakunnu Palace
This palace is one of the most magnificent buildings of Thiruvananthapuram. Now the palace and its sprawling grounds are taken care by the State Government and is the venue of many cultural meets and programmes. The architecture of the Museum building leaves one spellbound. The palace complex contains the Napier Museum, the Natural History Museum, the reptile house and the Sree Chithra Art Gallery along with a beautiful well maintained garden.
The Science and Technology Museum, the Government Secretariat, the Kowdiar palace, the Senate house, are some of the other tourist attractions worth a visit in the city.
Places easily accessible from Trivandrum
Also known as the land’s end of India is just 87kms from Trivandrum. Kanyakumari is also known as Cape Comorin, and is a part of kerala’s neighboring state Tamil nadu.
This is a pilgrim centre for the devotees of Sree Narayana Guru, one of the patron saints of Kerala, who believed and preached the motto ‘One God, One Religion, One Caste’. It is easily accessible by road at a distance of 51kms from Thiruvananthapuram. It also has one of another of Kerala’s finest beach, the Papanasham beach.
Tourist Destinations in Thiruvananthapuram:
The Neyyar dam is situated in the Agasthyamalai hills in the Neyyatinkara Taluka of Thiruvananthapuram district. It was established in 1958. There is the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary surrounding the dam which has all kinds of wild animals like Tigers, Wild boars, Elephants, Wild buffaloes, Porcupines and different types of snakes. There is lake at the bottom of the Western Ghats which is very popular with visitors. The KTDC has tours to the Neyyar dam and one can even hire boats and take a ride to explore the banks of the sanctuary..
Peppara Dam & Wildlife Sanctuary
Peppara Dam and Wildlife Sanctuary is situated near the Ponmudi Hills and is 50 kms from Thiruvananthapuram. The catchment area of Peppara dam across the river Karamana was declared as a sanctuary in 1983 to protect the rich ecology and the wild life dependent on it. This sanctuary is spread over an area of 53 sq. km. It is a beautiful place with dense forestation and a sizeable population of wild animals that include Leopards, Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langurs, Wild buffaloes, Elephants etc. There is an abundance of rare medicinal herbs and plants too. It is a treat for bird watchers too as there are quite a number of migratory and non migratory birds here.
Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There is a 100 feet and seven storied high marvelously carved ‘Gopuram’ in the complex built in the ancient Dravidian style. It is a very famous pilgrimage centre and one of the major attractions in Thiruvananthapuram city. It was built in 1733 by the Maharaja of Travancore.
Natural pigments have been used in the construction of all the countless pillars and mind boggling intricate and delicate carvings and the mural paintings. The main deity of the temple is lord Vishnu which is seen reclining on the sacred serpent god Anantha. The idol of Vishnu is 18 feet long and a lotus grows from Vishnu’s navel and Brahma is seen in the lotus. Several arts forms like Krishnanattam, Koodiyattom, Pavakkoothu, Nokkuvidya, Velakali and Kathakali have originated and flourished here under the patronage of the temple and the royal family. The temple is situated inside the East Fort. Rules of the temple have to be followed and entry is granted only on following of strict dress regulations. Entry is allowed only to Hindus.
A big market lines the street in front with shops selling temple and Pooja requirements and flowers. There is large pond, Padmatheertha, inside the temple complex which is used by devotees for bathing and other religious rituals. The temple is built using a blend of Kerala and Dravidian styles. It is considered as a Mahakshetram and is one among the 108 sacred Vishnu Temples in India. During the Navratri Festival in the months of October /November, musical concerts are held at the Navratri Mandapam, adjacent to the main building of the temple with musicians and artists coming from all over to pay obeience through music.
Kombaikani and Meenmutti Waterfalls
Kallar has a very unique speciality. It is famous for round-shaped boulders and pebbles and is situated en route to the popular hill station of Ponmudi. Starting right from the side of the Kallar Bridge, there is a track that will lead one to a medium sized, but captivating waterfall, popularly known as Meenmutti.
The lovely waterfall is situated about 3-4 kms from the main road. And further on, another couple of kms down the track through dense forests you will come face to face to Kombaikani waterfalls. These two magnificent waterfalls are situated on the upper reaches of the Neyyar Reservoir. The waterfalls and the dense and calm forests around them are worth a look. It is a popular site for picnickers and attracts many trekkers, hikers, bird lovers and wild life enthusiasts.
Just 60 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram is another magnificent waterfall called the Aruvi waterfalls and it is just 7 kms away from Bonecaud estate which lies in the Peppara forest range. This four feet cascade is relatively untouched and not many know about this waterfall. One can travel by a vehicle only upto the Bonecaud estate. From there on, the Kanni tribesmen, belonging to one of the 13 tribal settlements settled in the Peppara range show the way to trekkers. One needs to obtain a valid permission from the forest department for entering the area.
Tamil sculptors from Thanchavore were brought to build this palace. The beauty of this palace is enhanced by the beautiful pillars carved from a single stone. The roofs of this palace are exquisite. A striking monument of 122 horses is attached to this palace thereby giving it the name of Kuthiramalika (kuthira means horse and malika means mansion in Malayalam).
The roof beams here are carved to resemble the faces of horses and there are 122 such faces exquisitely carved. The palace has now been turned into a museum and displays ornaments, personal articles and weapons of the former Kings and their families of Travancore. Kuthiramalika is a timeless piece of a marvelous blend of Kerala style of architecture.
sThe first room of the palace houses 14 life-size figures depicting various scenes from ancient Kerala legends. Magnificent ivory cots, thrones of kings, a musical tree that produces the eight ‘Swaras’ when tapped, Dantasimhasana, etc are a few of the attractions of the museum.
The ceiling of the verandah is dotted with floral motifs. Huge Belgium mirrors add to the beauty of the Kuthira Malika. The 16 rooms in the palace have 16 different patterns as various kings added to the splendor of the palace making it one unique palace worth visiting.
This architectural delight of a palace was built during the reign of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma (1813-1834 AD), the King of Travancore, who was an art lover and a social reformer. He was a musician and a composer of many great musical pieces and has greatly contributed to Carnatic and Hindustani classical music. Swathi Thirunal spent much of his time in this palace composing many of his musical pieces. This magnificent mansion is also where he spent his last days. It is also adjacent to Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in East Fort.
Every year the Swathi Music Festival is conducted here in the front courtyard. The five day festival in January-February features leading Carnatic and Hindustani musicians. Great Stalwarts like Ustad Bismillah Khan, GanguBai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna, D.K.Pattammal etc have performed in this festival. Musical compositions created by the Maharaja are also sung here.
Napier Museum and Art Gallery
A visit to the Napier Museum complex is another such marvelous example of fine architecture. This Museum is named after the former Madras Governor General, John Napier and is also called the Government Art Museum.
This building is an interesting blend of Kerala, Mughal, Chinese and Italian architectural styles. Built by a 19th Century British architect Chisholm, it has a unique natural air-conditioning system. A treasure trove of art, it has a proud eclectic collection of bronzes, historical and ancient ornaments, ivory carvings and chariots used by royals of yore.
The Sree Chithra Art Gallery features a rare collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas Roerich, Svetlova among other great artists, and artworks from the Mughal, Rajput and Tanjore schools. An oriental collection of paintings from China, Japan, Tibet, Bali and Java is a treat to view.
There is an interesting antique clock here which is four centuries old and also an herbal coat which was used by the king of Travancore. These are a few of the many attractions here. The structure is surrounded with a well planned beautiful garden with various kinds of flowers.
A mere one and a half hour’s road journey separates the city bred of Thiruvananthapuram from the fresh and invigorating locales of Ponmudi Hills. This is a quaint little hill station just on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram at a distance of 61 kms. It is 912 metres above sea level. It is full of nature’s wonderful sights. With small streams and rivulets with fresh and cold running water and greenery everywhere and butterflies and exotic flowers that one wishes to carry back home, Ponmudi lacks nothing. It has panoramic views on every nook and corner. There are beautiful tea estates all neatly placed and terraced that one can visit along with the mist as your companion. It is a great place for the adventurous avid trekkers and also a great place to rejuvenate tired city souls. There are all kinds of cottages, homesteads, inns and hotels of all budgets to suit every pocket. The name Ponmudi meaning golden crown says it all.
Just 8 km from Trivandrum city, Shankumugham Beach is a clean beach with long sandy stretches. It is a perfect place for perfect sunsets to be enjoyed in the company of dear and near ones. One can avail of traditional Kerala houseboats known as Kettuvallams for a cruise from Kollam to Shankhumugham. These boats are rowed by boatmen with long poles. It is an absolutely fantastic way to enjoy the cool breeze and the placid water and the scenic views.
Shankumugham Beach is the place to be for some adventure in water sports. It has all the amenities required for emerging as the destination for enjoying water sports. It is the perfect place for the adventurous to hire a speedboat and speed away with the sea spray on your face.
On holidays, the beach is full of the city dwellers, all come here to invigorate themselves with some cool and fresh sea breeze. The water here, however, is not suitable for bathing. The beach is in actuality a fishing village. It is quite a sight to see them unload their daily catch. The beach is very close to the Thiruvananthapuram Airport and the Veli Tourist Village.
The tourist village has an indoor Recreation Club, the Matsya Kanyaka (a gigantic, 35 m long sculpture of a mermaid) and a restaurant shaped like a starfish with a delicious variety of mouthwatering dishes. The nearby Chacha Nehru Traffic Training Park has been set up for the children to learn traffic rules in a playful way.
Sree Chithra Art Gallery Thiruvananthapuram
Located quite close to the Napier Museum, this art gallery displays select paintings of great stalwarts like Raja Ravi Varma, Svetlova and Nicholas Roerich and also is host to a great many exquisite works from the Rajput, Mughal and Tanjore schools of art in India. The collection also includes paintings from China, Japan, Tibet, Java and Bali. It is a treat for connoisseurs of Art.
The Kanakakunnu Palace was constructed during the reign of the maharaja of Travancore, His Highness Sree Moolam Thirunal (1885-19240).
The Palace stands on the crest of a small hill surrounded with beautiful meadows and groves. It is situated 800 metres to the North East of the Napier Museum on top of a hill. This Kanakakunnu Palace is where the Travancore royal family once entertained their guests. Now it belongs to the State Government and is a popular venue for many cultural meets and programmes. An all India Dance Festival (October to March) is organized by the Department of Tourism every year. Many well known personalities in the field of Dance come here to perform.
The Nishagandhi open-air auditorium and the Sooryakanthy auditorium in the Palace compound are also popular venues for various cultural events and social programmes.
Priyadarshini Planetarium is one of the most sophisticated and versatile planetarium in India. This fabulous planetarium complex has all facilities and amenities like a centrally air conditioned Sky theatre, conference hall, sound studio etc. It has a seating capacity of 184. It is rated as one of the best horizontal domed planetarium of international standards. It is known for organizing shows such as ‘Man And The Universe’ that deals with the origin and different stages of development of the universe and planets and the planetary system, ‘Myriad Suns’ that deals with the birth and death of stars, black holes, neutron stars, star clusters, galaxies, nebula and supernova.
Veli Tourist Village
Nature weaves its magic in some of the most unlikely places ever. One such is the Veli lagoon. It is a picturesque location where nature has spread magic. This is the place where the Veli Lake meets the Arabian Sea and the waves of the Sea and the placid waters of the lake are separated by a small sandy stretch.
The State Government has built the Veli Tourist Village, here with a huge area demarcated for beautiful landscaped gardens with lovely huge life size sculptures strewn everywhere. There are small fishponds, wading pools and a children’s park around the floating bridge that connects the village to the beach.
The youth hostel takes care of food and accommodation at Veli. The restaurant that serves food to tourists here is shaped like a starfish. Hundreds of visitors visit the village everyday and with the presence of the park and all sorts of birds and ducks and swans in the wading pools and squirrels for company, it is every child’s favorite haunt. Pedal boats and paddleboats can be hired to explore the charms of the lagoon in a leisurely manner. One can even hire speedboats here. An 18 acre waterfront park with floating bridge connects the village to the Shankhumugham beach. The village is now open from 10 am to 8 pm on all days.
Thiruvallam is a serene backwater stretch with beautiful coconut trees surrounding the water, enroute to Kovalam. This place is famous for its canoe rides where one can ride in small canoes paddled with small oars. One can view the backwater life with small houses built on the edges of the backwaters with swaying coconut trees.
The Aruvikkara Dam is built across the river Karamana and is just 16 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram. There is a very ancient and well known temple on the banks of the Karamana River of the Goddess Durga. Devotees and visitors who come to visit this temple can see an amazing sight of the fish coming near the shores. One can feed the fish here.
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary
The Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as a sanctuary in 1938. Thiruvananthapuram and the suburbs were facing water shortage and to counter that a dam was built on the Karamana river. The catchment area that was formed became home to many wild animals and birds. The State Government declared it as a sanctuary to protect the rich Ecology. The sanctuary is spread over 53 sq. km. on the Western Ghats.
It is a place for the strong hearted. The Forest area is dense with eucalyptus plantations and an abundance of a variety of plants and trees, medicinal herbs and plants abound here in plenty too. There are clear streams and rivulets running by. The rocky terrain and the dense foliage make it a perfect place for trekking and hiking and exploring the forest.
The Sanctuary is the proud home of a rich population of fauna and flora. Wild life enthusiasts can have the time of their life by getting to see wild animals like Elephants, Tigers, Sambars, Lion tailed Macaque, Wild buffaloes, King Cobras and Pythons etc. Bird watchers need not get disappointed as there are quite a number of migratory and non migratory birds here like the Herons, Egrets, Cormorants and Pied Kingfisher, to watch and study.
There are three major forest types visible here in Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Southern hilltop tropical evergreen – This type visible in forests is due to exposure to strong and harsh winds and unfavorable soil conditions. It is found a height of 1000m above sea level and has a stunted evergreen growth.
West coast semi- evergreen- This type is visible on the hill slopes from a height of 150 to 1050 metres. It varies between evergreen and moist deciduous types. The riparian areas can also contain this type.
Southern moist mixed deciduous- This is the common type of forest that covers a majority of 60 percent of the area on the plains and the lower slopes of hills.
The Sanctuary has a varying hilly elevation from 100 metres to 1717 metres thereby giving way to so many forest types. It is a part of Kottoor reserve which covers 29 sq.kms and Palode reserve which is of 24sq.kms. The water area inside the Sanctuary is of 5.82sq.kms. It is between longitude 76°40′ and 77°17′ East and latitude 80°7’and 8°53′ north. There are 13 tribal settlements in the Sanctuary. Eleven are in Athirumala section and two are in Thodayar section. One can take permission from the forest range and visit these settlements too.
Varkala Sivagiri Temple
Varkala is at a distance of 41 kms North from Thiruvananthapuram by rail and about 51 kms by road. The Samadhi of Sree Narayana Guru is located here. He was a great social reformer and philosopher who practiced and preached the motto of ‘one caste, one people, one religion’. Followers visit this place in hundreds.
There is a secluded beach close by with the interesting name of Papanasham beach. As the name suggests, devotees and believers believe that the water has the power of redeeming one’s sins and so a dip in the water is a must. Many come to immerse ashes of the departed too. There is a temple here of Lord Janardhana Swamy believed to be atleast 2000 years old. Devotees throng here to take blessings. The cliff on the edge of the water is formed out of laterite. There are many mineral water springs here which makes it an ideal location for nature treatments. There is an inland waterways system that connects Kollam in the North to Thiruvananthapuram in the South. This waterway passes through two tunnels in the hills.
Pazhavangadi Sree Maha Ganapathy Temple
Sree Maha Ganapathy Temple Pazhavangadi is a very well known Ganapathy temple situated in the heart of the city at Pazhavangadi. It is barely 1.5kms away from the main Bus stand and the Railway station. The idol was originally worshipped by a soldier of Travancore Army which was garrisoned at Padmanabhapuram. The garrison of the royal army shifted to Thiruvananthapuram when it became the capital of the state of Travancore. The idol than was shifted here at Pazhavangadi in 1795 AD.
Devotees on the fulfillment of their desires and wishes come here and break coconuts. This ritual is known as the Vazhipatu and the temple is very famous for this ritual. Many devotees can conduct Ganapathy homams here and offer all kinds sweets like modakams, appams etc. No strict regulations on clothing here.
Koyikkal palace was built for Umayamma Rani who hailed form the Venad royal family. She ruled the state from 1677 to 1684. This palace is 18 km away from Thiruvananthapuram and falls between Ponmudi hill station and Kuttalam waterfalls. The palace is a typical example of Kerala architecture and is built in the form of a double storey Nalukettu with slanting gabled roofs and a courtyard inside the mansion.
It is now famous as a Folklore Museum and a Numismatics Museum set up by the Department of Archaeology in 1992.
It has a veritable priceless and timeless collection of ancient musical instruments. It also has on display ancient utensils and household articles of yore. There are various models depicting old folk arts. There are interesting artifacts like the ‘Oorakkudukku’, which is a device for intellectual exercise used by Yogis and sages. There is a beautiful lamp, ’Gajalakshmi’, representing the goddess of Prosperity – Lakshmi and many other interesting exhibits. The exhibits also include rare musical articles like ‘Chandravalayam’, which is a small percussion instrument used as an accompaniment while reciting the ballad ‘Ramakathappattu’ ( Lord Sree Ram’s story), ‘Nanthuni’, a sweet sounding musical instrument made of wood and string used while singing the ‘Onappattu’ and ‘Nanthunippattu’ during Onam, kerala’s harvest festival.
The Numismatics Museum is another unique place of attraction in the State. A plethora of coins exhibited here belong to different parts of the world as well as to different eras and are a visual treat. Amaida is a Venetian coin, which is believed to have been presented to Jesus Christ, is the pride of the museum. ‘Karsha’ which is nearly 2500 years old, is the most valuable of all ancient coins of India.
On display are the world’s smallest coins known as ‘Rasi’. A regional coin issued by local kings during the 10th century known as the ‘Sreekrishna Rasi’, is also on display here. The ‘Anantharayan Panam’, is the first modern gold coin of Travancore, which was in circulation in the 15th and 17th centuries. It is a privilege to get to see these coins. The museum has a huge collection of nearly 374 Roman gold coins, each worth up to Rs.5 million now on display here. All these coins have Roman gods and goddesses like Venus, Hercules, Mars, Ceres, Genius and rulers like Hardin depicted on them
The Agasthya forest is considered as the abode of Rishi Agasthya, a powerful sage from ancient Indian mythology. Agasthyarkoodam is a very spectacular peak located in the Western Ghats. It has a height of 1890 m and is in the shape of a sharp cone. It is the second highest peak in Kerala. It is a boon for trekkers as it many trekking trails through dense forests. There is an abundance of rare herbs and medicinal plants here. The peak is famous for the ‘Neelakurinji’, a beautiful blue flower that blooms here only once in every twelve years. It’s a sight one has to see. One cannot forget the breathtaking sight of the peak looking blue in color with the flowers in full bloom.
The aborigines who reside here believe that Rishi Agasthya, who lived here was a confirmed bachelor and disliked women. Hence women are not allowed up the peak here. The season from second week of December to February is considered the best for trekking. One can avail of a forest pass from the Wildlife Warden, Forest Department, P.T.P.Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram.
There is a world famous beach called Kovalam at a distance of just 16kms away from Thiruvananthapuram. The Arabian Sea on the west coast of Kerala settles down here. The beach is part rocky and part sandy. The rocky edges have divided the seaside into three beaches. Kovalam has a shallow bottom with crystal clear water and is quite popular for swimming. During the early seventies, many tourists under the influence of the flower power who were in search of seclusion, turned up here. The beach became popular bringing upon itself an influx of commercialization. Seeing the rising popularity, many set up hotels and restaurants here. This was the beginning of the tourism trade in Kerala.
Kovalam has the distinction to be the first beach of Kerala to be featured on the international tourism map with tourists from all over the world coming down to Kerala to visit Kovalam.
The beach is divided into three parts by rocky formations jutting out to the sea at two places. These three beaches are named as Light House Beach, Hawwah Beach (Eves Beach) and Samudra Beach. The Lighthouse beach and the Hawwah beach are very popular and are crowded with tourists. They are curvy in shape with shallow water extending up to hundred metres. This gives swimmers a natural protection from strong waves and deceptive undercurrents. The water here is blue and clear.
Both these beaches have many hotels and resorts and restaurants. There are all kinds of Handicrafts, Textiles and Curio shops here selling all kinds of Jewelry, paintings, clothes, Carpets and other knick knacks sourced from different parts of India. These establishments aim primarily at foreign tourists for business. But the Samudra beach is totally in contrast to these two beaches. It is still undeveloped and not many venture out here. This is a part of a fishing village and is primarily used by the fishermen to venture out to the sea. They make use of the catamarans even now. This happens to be just a few light wood logs tied together. One can spend time here leisurely away from the hustle and bustle of the maddening crowds watching the fishermen haul up their daily catch on the shores.
Kovalam has made its presence felt in the international tourism markets and its popularity has forced charter agencies to invent special packages for Kovalam and Kerala. During the tourist seasons, many international charter flights arrive weekly with large number of tourists.
Amenities – Kovalam has rapidly grown in the last few years as tourism has grown by leaps and bounds providing tourists with all kinds of amenities. There are many five star hotels, Inns, lodges and homesteads here to suit all kinds of budgets. Kovalam has gained popularity as a major destination for health tourism with many of the hotels providing authentic Ayurveda treatments. Lazing in the sun or swimming in the shallow waters are just two of the many options available on the beach for tourists. One can avail of Surfing boards, beach umbrellas, beach benches etc for a nominal rent. There are lifeguards on the beach and it is safe to swim here. You can even join the local fishermen for a ride on their catamaran for a small fee.
There is a Lighthouse on a rocky formation on the south of the beach which is open to visitors. Vizhinjam, an ancient port which was used by the Dutch and the British is adjacent to the beach at a distance of about 1.5kms. It is a natural port and is now in the process of being developed as the Transshipment Container Terminal. There is an ancient temple here which is cut out from rocks with beautiful rock cut sculptures.
Varkala is the second most popular seaside area after Kovalam. A temple of Lord Janardhana (Vishnu) built here is said to be almost 2000 years old. It is a much sought after destination by local and foreign devotees and tourists. Varkala lies 50 km north of Thiruvananthapuram. The ancient temple is believed to date back to early 13th century. An inscription which was found here mentions the date of the reconstruction, and that a bell was presented by a Dutch sailor in the 17th century. This bell still serves as the temple’s main bell.
The small and clean stretch of a beach called Papanasham attracts the devout as well as tourists. People believe that by taking a dip in the waters here, one can redeem one’s sins. Many devout come here to immerse ashes of the departed too.
On top of the headland that overlooks the beach, is a land that stretches several kilometers. There are many hotels and shops facing the sea. The tourist season lasts from October to April with business being seasonal. There is a walkway along the edge of the cliff which gives a panoramic view of the entire area. The Sivagiri Mutt that is located here has been founded by Sree Narayana Guru, one of kerala’s great Guru, Social reformer and philosopher. Varkala rose to prominence after Sree Narayana Guru, a sage and social reformer. Many followers come here for a visit to the ashram.
The cliff that is on the edge of the beach is made up of laterite and the water is believed to have mineral elements that are good for health. Varkala is also famous for Natural treatments and mineral water springs.
All kinds of accommodation are available here for all types of budgets. Most of the hotels are located on the Sea facing headland with a scenic view. A visit to the Sivagiri mutt, the Kappil Lake and estuary, the Ponnumthuruthu island and the Anjengo fort is highly recommended.
This is one of the first Zoos in India. It is located in the center of the city with a well-planned botanical garden. There is an abundance of huge trees like Frangipani and Jacaranda in the entire area. A lake in the centre with different types of ducks and swans swimming in it make it a tranquil place right in the middle of hustle and bustle. It has a Reptile house which houses different species of snakes
Science and Technology Museum Complex
The Science and Technology Museum, is situated in Thiruvananthapuram. It has the sole aim of having galleries with working or animated and participatory type of exhibits, based on disciplines of Science and Technology. The exhibits here at the museum are related to science, technology and electronics. The museum is very popular among high school students as it satiates their curiosity for information about various subjects in Science. The Planetarium here has a daily 40-minutes English show on different science subjects.
The Observatory is situated at one of the highest points in the city near the Museum complex, directly opposite to the Kanakakunnu Palace. The observatory situated at an altitude of 60 m above sea level offers a beautiful and panoramic bird’s eye view of Thiruvananthapuram.
Akkulam Tourist Village
Another very well known tourist destination on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram is the Akkulam Tourist village. It is just 10 kms from Thiruvananthapuram city. Akkulam is known for its picturesque backwaters. It is at a nominal distance of just 10 kms from the central railway station. It has the distinction of being the city’s first ever picnic spot in the suburbs.
The village is developed on the banks of Akkulam Kayal (backwaters), which happens to be an extension of the Veli Kayal (backwaters). This village has a Boat Club, Swimming Pool, Children’s Park, and an Anthurium Project.
It is a lovely paradise for families to have day trips and picnics. Boating is popular
here. It is very popular with children who love the swimming pool here. The Southern Air Command of the Indian Air Force is situated quite near to the Akkulam Tourist Village. It is a place to visit and enjoy the scenic beauty and the serenity of the Akkulam tourist village.
This is a 2000 year old ancient temple built on the banks of the river Karamana. It is the temple of Lord Parasurama who is believed to have created Kerala according to Hindu Mythology. It is the one and only such temple in Kerala that is dedicated to Sree Parasurama. In Hindu religion, there is a ritual of worship for the ancestors. This ritual is performed here in prominence. The devotees take a bath in the holy river and than make offerings in the name of the departed.
Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave
Vizhinjam is just one km away from Kovalam. It is located 17kms away from Thiruvananthapuram. Vizhinjam was known in ancient yore as the capital of many local chiefs who ruled the southern parts of Kerala around the 8th century A.D. It is famous for a cave temple in with rock cut sculptures of the 18th century.
The outer walls of the temple depict half complete carvings of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati. The granite cave here has a shrine of just a small cell with a sculpture of Vinandhara Dakshinamurthi.
C V N Kalari
Kalarippayattu is considered as the mother of all martial art forms. It is a part of kerala’s integral culture and heritage. It is a blend of physical and mental prowess, martial techniques and indigenous medical system. This hand to hand form with arms is not only unique to Kerala but also to the rest of India. The Kalari is a practice ring, or training centre, on the lines of a gymnasium and Payattu means duel. Hence Kalarippayattu means martial skills learnt in a ring. The C V N Kalari Sangham was established in 1956 after lifelong dedicated efforts of C V Narayanan Nair, C V Balan Nair and Kottackal Karunakara Gurukkal. They are pioneers in this field and take the credit of popularizing this dying art. They popularized it by staging demonstrations, collecting information and establishing Kalaris across the State.
The C V N Kalari is built in an East-West direction about 4 ft below ground level. It is an enclosure closed on all sides except for a small door to the East. This cocoon-like Kalari architecture is developed after taking the tropical, humid climate of Kerala into consideration. It is very dark inside the Kalari and the only light there is of the traditional wick lamps, Nilavilakku. Certain deities are placed in the Kalari and rituals are performed before every session. Paradevata, or the Goddess of Kalari, is the main deity. Idols of Ganapathy, Naga and Bhadrakali and others are also placed. The rites of worship are of the Kalari tradition followed since ancient inception.
The Kalari warrior has to undergo rigorous training. Dependability solely rests on the warrior’s alertness and agility. Various postures and swift movements are used for attack and defence. A Kalari warrior has to undergo years of rigorous training that will help him to perfect his reflexes. Kalarippayattu also helps in cultivating and improving concentration, confidence and courage. The training begins at the age of seven for boys and girls. As the training begins at a very young age, it becomes a way of life for all exponents. Kalari training also includes meditation and Ayurvedic massages which condition and keep the body supple. These tasks are performed by the Gurukkal, or the Master Trainer.
Training consists of four different stages.
Chuvadu- means stance. This is followed by Vadivu, or body postures. These body postures are- Gaja (Elephant), Simha (Lion), Ashwa (Horse), Varaha (Pig), Sarpa (Serpent), Marjjara (Cat), Kukkuda (Rooster) and Matsya (Fish). The next segment that comes after perfection in the above stances and postures is the Meyppayattu (use of body in fighting). This perfects Neuro-muscular coordination. The next phase is training with weapons. The trainee begins with a cane and than gradually upgrades to the Cheruvadi (small stick), Ottakkol (pole), Gada (mace) and Kadtaram (dagger). The most glamorous of all combats is the combat with sword and shield. It combines the sheer beauty of agility and speed
Another special and unique weapon is the Urumi, a long, springy, double-edged, coiled sword which can recoil and hurt the user if not careful. The last in the training is the spears. Kuntham as they are known are long poles made of cane, bamboo or wood with a sharp double edged metal tip.
Medicine and treatment are also as important to Kalarippayattu as the training. An entire system of medicine revolves round the art of Kalari Chikitsa, or Kalari treatment. It is a part of the ancient tradition of Kalarippayattu.
This treatment is used to treat sprains, fractures, wounds and other injuries that are a part of the training. Performers of other traditional arts also undergo the Kalari Chikitsa for better body suppleness. The Kalari masters are trained healers. Their expertise lies in curing physical ailments with Ayurvedic massages with liberal use of medicinal herbs.
Kalari performances are organized on request, in India and abroad, Lecture demonstrations are presented at the Kalaris at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
Attukal Bhagvathy Temple
Attukal Bhagvathy temple is also very famously known as the Sabarimala of women. This temple allows entry only to women during the Pongala (ritual cooking of rice) festival. One of the highlights of this festival is the preparation of Pongala by thousands of women devotees in the temple courtyard.
A procession of the idol is taken out. While the chief priest carries the sword of the Goddess Bhagvathy and blesses the devotees. Holy water and petals are sprinkled on the devotees too. It is the place to be during the festival with Thalapoli, Kuthiyottam, Caparisoned elephants, Chendamelams, Nadaswarams, Kumbhakudam, Classical music recitals, performances of classical dances like the Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, blasting of crackers etc.
This temple of is just 35 kms North of Thiruvananthapuram and 6 kms west of Attingal. A grand festival, Sarkara Bharani, is conducted in this temple during March – April every year.