Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kerala Strike Tourism

Kerala is uniquely blessed with heavenly pristine climate, lush green filled hillstations, exotic backwaters, calm beaches and hermitage-like Ayurveda treatment centers. These factors attract tens of thousands of visitors from around the world to Kerala. If you happen to visit this land on wrong days, you will be greeted with least expected troubles.

The days to avoid are days of strike organized political parties. 'Bandh' is a form of strike that Kerala High Court has banned many years ago. Politicians discovered a new name 'Harthal', only name changed nature of strike didn't. High Court banned Harthal too. The ban remains on paper. The nature of strike will leave an outsider jaw-dropped.

In the name of democracy and democratic rights, these group of strikers just hijack the democratic rights of all other people. It is the norm that you shall not open your shop, get your vehicles on road or shall pursue your daily bread.

That is the nature of the strike - no vehicles on road, no shops opened. The streets will be hunting ground for those strikers. If an unlucky man happens to drive his car out, it is almost sure he will be pelleted.

It is not a rare sight to see people reaching Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala only to get trapped at Railway Station or Airport on a harthal day.

Does anywhere else experience this phenomenon and do you really enjoy such a situation?

Is this how Kerala becoming God's Own Country? or is it dog's own country as these guys think?
If you happen to be in such an unlucky situation repeating in the name of democracy and democratic rights, you have an option to seek assistance from the police, who can help you get to a hotel or your place of accomodation.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Onam Celebration is Official Matter in TVM City

Official Onam Celebrations from Sep 3 to 10

This year’s Onam celebrations in Thiruvananthapuram city will be a grand affair – according to the late announcement by Tourism Department, Govt. of Kerala.

The main center of festivities will be Kanakakkunnu Palace in the city and there will be trade fairs, cultural extravaganza, dance and music festival, kalarippayattu, Kathakali, and a grand display of traditional Kerala showcase items.

After a gap of a few years, this year will see the buildings alongside MG Road will be illuminated to a grand display of colorful lighting. Govt. announced an award for the best illuminated private building. A sure sign of some festivity, no one in the district seems to afford to miss the only major festivity that hits the city.

In the former years, traffic in the road was blocked to facilitate city folk enjoy the illumination work. People would cover the roads, making it impossible for regular traffic. I expect a similar grandeur this year too.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Story of Onam

Seema Tells the Story behind Onam

There is a great myth behind the festival of Onam, a story that fills us everyone with hope and a bit nostalgia of losing something of good nature.

Onam is the celebration of the return of King Mahabali from the nether-world, at the consent of Vamana (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) who stamped the king down to hell.

I saw a blog-post that details the story of Mahabali and Onam (the story I promised) at Sweet Seemu Ka Jaan.

She also tells about Great Onam Feast, a culinary celebration that is unique to Onam, where all of the family members, eat Onam feast on plantain leaf spread on floor.

PS: I have promised early this month that I will tell you about the story of Onam. Sorry friends I have been a bit busy and a bad flu kept me down. Anyway you now have the story of Onam with a mallu blogger.

Random Blog Posts about Onam

I also see a few bloggers talking about Onam, they are listed below, will have more blogs in the coming days.

Mohanlal (not our beloved actor) from Kollam tells briefly about Onam at his blog.

Onam Wishes at Manoj’s Blog
Parakkulam’s Onam Wishes
Jerry’s Onam Celebration at Wipro, Bangalore (yeah, that same great Wipro Technologies)

Happy Onam For all humans


Friday, August 25, 2006

Onam Begins with Athapoo

Tomorrow, (Sunday 27) is Atham, the day to start making special floral formations called athappookkalam (also called athapoo, onapookkalam, athapookalam, etc). Athapoo is characterized by the floral formations of variety of designs in front of buildings, homes, offices (only on a day selected by the office for onam celebrations), road side platforms, etc.

Now the flowers for athapoo mainly come from neighboring state Tamil Nadu. It used to be the hobby of children of Kerala to go into the farms, growings and even forests to collect flowers for athapoo and it is a big festival that everyone together makes the athapoo formation in front of homes.

Shall provide links to some onapookalam photos tomorrow.



Sunday, August 13, 2006

A Day Out in TVM City

Though Onam festival is a month away I decided to have a look at the preparations leading up to the grand festival. The part is onam is a grand shopping season for all Malayalees.

I have committed to meet a few of my friends at Gandhi Park in the city. I got to the place a bit earlier than scheduled, mainly to have a feel of the shopping fever gripping our people.

It feels that the shopping season is a bit soaked by the rain lashing the city for quite a few days now. The real festival is still 20 days ago.

Shopping windows have started displaying ‘Discount Sale’ boards that claims 30 p.c. to 50 p.c. discount on sale price of various items. It is early part and the discount is applicable mainly to fabrics items.

I can’t stop amusing at the success of a textile shop in Pazhavagadi near East Fort Trivandrum. Without doubt, this textile shop called Ramachandra Textiles (actually a series of more than 15 shops) attracts people shopping for dress materials. The name is that cheapest dress materials are available in this shop. I was not able to get into the shop as it the rush inside the shop was bigger than it would be in a crowded local bus.

Sure Aiyappa’s, Parthas, Novelty, Park Avenue, and a hundred and fifty shops in close vicinity also have announced huge discounts for clothing items.

I am looking for a similar discount for the Yamaha G5 I plan to buy this Onam season. Zero percent finance is a sales technique that motor dealers used in the past. However such a solid offer is not coming from the dealers I look to.

My Onam shopping list includes just two items – a bike and a digital camera (so that I can better describe what I see in the city). Do you have a used 5plus MP camera? If you are from TVM, contact me via email provided on the left sidebar.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Special Onam Series Coming

Special Onam Series Coming

Kerala’s national festival is essentially a harvest festival and hence the theme of abundance for the festival. Abundance of health, wealth and peace of mind, the festival is all these, and some more.

Watch Kerala Tourist for stories about the national festival of God’s own country. Onam, national festival of Kerala levitates the spirit of everyone Malayalee.

I would like to make a promise here to come up with as many Onam related posts.

Watch this blog for special onam myth, stories, entertainment, celebration etc.

Background information about Onam (For NON MALAYALEES only)

Onam brings the memory of a just king who ruled the land of Kerala in a just manner. During the rule of Mahabali, the demon king, the land prospered and people lived in peace, full of health and wealth and with no evil thoughts.

The king of God’s got jealous of Mahabali, cheated him and sent him to the netherworld. (I will tell this story in detail as a separate post.) Mahabali the king has permission to visit his people once in a year on Thiruvonam day of the Malayalam month Chingam.

We (Malayalees) celebrate the arrival of our loved king with unmatchable fervor.

This year’s Onam (Thiruvonam) falls on September 5. The celebration actually lasts over many days.

Onam Time Table for 2006

August 27 Atham. Beginning of decoration of courtyards of homes, clubs and offices with special floral decorations called Athapookkalam, athappoo, Onapookkalam. There is a saying “atham pathinu ponnonam” means on the tenth day of atham is Thiruvonam.

Sep 4 Onnam Onam or 1st onam, the day before actual thiruvonam

Sep 5 Thiruvonam, actual onam day. It is imperative for every Malayalee to have food from their home with whole family.

Sep 6 Moonnam Onam 3rd Onam

Sep 7 Nalam Onam 4th Onam

For more information visit (Official Kerala tourism website)


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Vettukad Church

Vettucad Church

Vettucad Church (Madre-de-Deus church) is the most famous Christian pilgrim centre in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala State. Though not a prominent location in Kerala tourism map, people of all faiths pay a visit to this church.

The church also becomes a link in the chain of innumerable churches by seashores.

The church is just 5 km from Sankhumugham or Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

My friend Suma Kumar, who works in the northern district of Kerala, Malappuram occasionally takes me to the serenity of this church and the coast of Arabian Sea on the backdrop.

Last month’s visit to this church was a special one. My friend offered a candle as offering, while I watched people of different faiths reverently bowing their heads before the almighty.

I watched the calmness of Arabian Sea, even with bigger than normal tides and waves. Simply being there is a way to wash away the turbulences that may get rooted into the backyard of your mind.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sighting Nilgiri Tahr

Two Days in Munnar

Munnar, the tea county of Kerala is an exotic summer getaway – not only for foreign tourists but also for near ones from Kerala and India.

Read this post with the prejudice that this is only the personal experience…

I had the opportunity to visit Munnar – some three years ago, special thanks to Sekhar local boy of Munnar and my classmate at University College Thiruvananthapuram (Zoology Dept 1998-200).

I need to tell about Amjath, Akbar Shah and Suma Kumar who jointly planned a trip to this jewel of Kerala Tourism.

Sekhar promised a free stay for all of us, at his place. We reached the misty tea county of Kerala, Munnar in the evening of May 11, 2002. It was the thick cloudy mist that welcomed us, the journey of over 8 hours has made some of us tired and we headed to Sekhar’s palace, atop a hillock, among tea plantations. On the evening we went to see the proceedings of All India Table Tennis tournament, held under the auspices of Tata Tea, Munnar.

There was only mist everywhere, even in mid-day. We see local people wearing sweaters to shut the cold out. Akbar Shah, Bineesh and I felt a bit adventurous to go without sweaters, and did it successfully (till we started a bit of shivery).

The main goal of reaching Munnar was to have a glimpse at an exotic mammal species found 15 Km away from here in Rajamalai, the Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National Park. These antelopes resemble goats and their population is mainly confined to Western Ghats, especially to Rajamalai.

Sure we were lucky enough to see them very close (after about an hour’s jeep journey from Munnar town). I believed these antelopes were quite un-tamable, they were quite so too. We spotted two tahrs at a distance, atop a rock. It may be an adaptation of these antelopes to save themselves from the leopards that they can move swiftly over the rolling rocks. One can look at the antelopes moving over the rocks only with wide eyes, dropped jaws. Don’t worry if you forget to at least breathe.

A fairly large group of Tahrs were grazing at a distant valley among the savanna-shola mixed vegetation. Moving closer to them without making a sound, we got some snap shots. It was not enough since we had no zoom lens. Among the group one, probably the leader is very careful about the surroundings, raising and turning its ears as if to catch the minute sound that comes from the distant valley or from among the shoal forests.

The unfortunate thing happened, the leader got an alert – raised its head for a look at the intruders, then it took a step back, and before we could notice it started sprinting away at a lightening speed and followed the whole group… leaving us only the snow, forests and some rocks.

Special thanks to Sekhar who took us to this jewel of Kerala tourism, serving homely food and preparing our bed at Leela Ammachi’s house. Also special thanks to his father, mother and little sister who treated us as warmly and treated us as their family members.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Aruvikkara Dam – Pathetic Face of Kerala Tourism

Situated 16km from Thiruvananthapuram city, Aruvikkara Dam site used to be a preferred tourism location. Now you can describe the condition of this place in a single word – pathetic.

There was a good park, which now is home to some snakes and big groves –may be preserving nature.

Major portion of water supply to Thiruvananthapuram City is catered from here. The location has some greenery left, the blue spread of reservoir and the artificial waterfall is also a nice thing to see. On the banks of this Aruvi (stream by meaning) is a Devi temple. Devi Aruvikkara. The fish in the river is believed to be owned by the deity of the temple. A usual ritual here is feeding the fish with rice, flower and peanuts – this could heal warts in skin.

It is impossible to swim and very dangerous to take a bath because of innumerable rocks that have huge curve-ins.

There is a KTDC restaurant – one has to do some ‘research’ to find the place. The only solace to people visiting the place is regular KSRTC bus services connecting the city – you feel it less adventurous to run over the slippery, sharp rocks inside the river.

Let me stop here…

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ponmudi the Golden Peak

Ponmudi the Golden Crown

Located 52km from Thiruvananthapuram, Ponmudi is essentially the southernmost hill station in Kerala. This hill station becomes hot in summer and gets the cool weather befitting a hill station only in the winter and monsoon.

The word ponmudi can be translated in two ways – the golden crown and golden hair. The former meaning is most stable as the southernmost Western Ghats peak resembles a golden crown in a distant vision.

A few restaurants and a Kerala tourism department owned motel are the only places we can depend for a lunch or evening snacks – earlier big tour parties had to book their lunch at least in the morning.

Local tourists have given a bad mark to this lovely peak as the point to booze. Broken bottles take away the attractiveness of the peak on a large scale.

The attractions of Ponmudi include a deer park, a suicide point – a narrow tunnel like trench on the way to the peak. This point says some stories of desperate lovers taking their lives, just because they can’t live together. That is only an old story and today young men and women are tougher than the light hearted old-time lovers.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Kerala Tourism bags IITC 2006 - Express TravelWorld

Kerala Tourism Walks away with Tourism Awards

"Kerala Tourism has bagged the IITC 2006 Award founded by India International Tourism Council, Mumbai for the best performance of state managed tourism office. The award was presented at a function held at St. Andrews Stadium, Bandra recently.
IITC has been giving awards for the last four years for various institutions and persons who have contributed outstandingly to tourism, travel, hospitality, communication and media."

Other Sources

Chennai Online

The Hindu

Zee News

Misty Munnar

Munnar is the most sought after hill resort in Kerala, enjoying similar status of Ooty and Kodaikanal in the neighboring state, Tamil Nadu.

Honeymoon couples, students, etc seek to go to Munnar for a misty holiday. The living costs here are lower, when compared to the other well known hill stations of Kerala.

This place is famous for "NEELA KURINJI", a flower which is famous for its blooming pattern, which occurs once in twelve years. The Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered mountain antelope also finds shelter here. Thunderous water falls also offer wild beauty of nature to be enjoyed.

Pic: The misty Location of High Munnar High Ranges

Munnar, Kerala (Flickr Image)

The Sprawling Exteriors of Napier Museum

The lawns that cover the compound of Napier Museum Thiruvananthapuram seems to be the most sought after meeting place for couples and lovers of the city.

The museum hosts many historically important artifacts like a 16th Century temple cart, life size Kathakali figures and much more including seven concentric balls carved out of single ivory- I can’t stop fascinating about the workmanship that produced it.

Also in the museum compound is opening to Zoological garden, which houses many wild animals and exotic birds in almost-natural surroundings. A walk-in aviary is missing from the zoo.

There are also two art galleries within the museum compound. Paintings of world renowned artists like Raja Ravi Varma, van Gogh, etc are kept here.

Back to the exteriors of Museum compound- Trees bear umbrella to give shade to every inch of the sprawling lawns, making it a misty outing for couples, especially in the summer evenings.

This is also a scenic photographic location without any limitations. Watching tiny tots, youngsters, couples and people of all ages posing silhouetted against the back ground of the romantic red building is a never ending fascination.

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Lively Serene Veli Lake

Veli Lake near Thiruvananthapuram is a favorite haunt of local tourists. The place is blessed with a calm serene atmosphere. The atmosphere gets livened up with the children, family groups and ‘love-birds’.

Children’s park, floating bridge to the island, a newly made floating restaurant, boating, swimming and water-sports opportunities make Veli Lake a lively place in Thiruvananthapuram tourism map.

Veli Lake where the lake and Arabian Sea meets is a place to be in –with your loved and near ones of course.

Kerala tourism department has spent most money and efforts for the beautification of this tourism village. Aesthetically laid pavements, placement of trees among lawns bear testimony to this fact.

People who throng here in the evening never miss the evenings that paint the western sky with different shades of orange-red and a perfect sunset.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Silver Sand Beach among Palm Groves-Kovalam

Romantic GetAway to Kovalam International Beach

Hippies of 1960s were the first to find the beauty of this fisher folk village. Through their songs, spread the fame of Kovalam in the world. Today Kovalam beach is the favorite getaway place for tourists from across Europe, America. Not only foreigners but also people from north India, school and college picnic groups from neighboring states spend their time merrily on the silver sands of Kovalam.

Kovalam has actually three beaches, Light House beach –favorite haunt of foreigners, Eve’s beach –local throng mainly here, and another northern beach –no one cares to visit this place. The water at the light house beach is shallow and surfs are gentle, whereas it is quite rocky, deep and strong waves at Eve’s Beach.

More Photos

Friday, February 10, 2006

Serene BackWaters of Kerala

World famous Kerala Backwaters are noted for its tranquility and serenity. A boating through the lush backwaters is a thing too good to miss.

Although I live in Kerala, I had only once dared a houseboat journey across Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam. It was so beautiful and memorable a journey that I can never forget the experience.

This time we (means the whole team of Journalism students from Institute of Journalism, Thiruvanathapuram) were returning from an intra state tour to Karnataka.

After enjoying the timeless beauty of Buddhist temples and monasteries at Bilakkuppa in Karnataka, we returned to our homes in Thiruvananthapuram. On the way our great master Mr. Soman, the director of our institute fancied the idea of spending a whole day in the calm serenity of Lake Ashtamudi.

We got to Ashtamudi Resort, a nice picturesque resort silhouetted against the backwaters of Kollam. Partly because of our director’s connection with the resort people and partly because of an off-season, we got the opportunity to use a full resort for the whole day, enjoying the calmness and real ambience of backwaters of Kerala.

Jacob, the poet among journalists got inspired by the natural beauty and the cool breeze from the backwaters. Then it was time we all got a special treat by Jacob in the form of an unstoppable recitation, not fully enthused by the backwaters.

A journey by a houseboat, the vehicle of backwaters is also something we couldn’t afford to miss. Our team got into the houseboat. It could house 100 people according to the proprietor of Ashtamudi resort, (I forgot his name, if someone know his name please let me know as a comment below) who is also the owner of the houseboat and he too joined us in the houseboat journey.

This Ashtamudi Lake is free from mosquito, though I don’t know the reason why.

There was a couple in their late fifties (or early sixties) at the resort who hired a speedboat to browse the whole of Ashtamudi backwaters, whom waved us from the boat as we left the resort in our own little Titanic (God bless it, let it not sink), to Kollam town where our bus would wait for us.

From the houseboat we saw Neendakara bridge and buzzing fishing harbor. It was quite a marvelous sight to see the long bridge as a thin line above the waters, and from beyond came the rays of setting sun to paint the backwaters with gold and to fill the skies with little orange-red clouds.

We all cheered the owner of Ashtamudi resort for preparing such a grand day and evening for us in such a short notice. We all (reluctantly) got out of the boat and dragged our feet to the footboard of our tourist bus which would take us to our homes in two or three hours.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Kerala a.k.a. God’s Own Country

Nick-named God’s Own Country, Kerala truly is a unique place on earth, with rich variety in geography, culture, festivals, cuisine… Anyone happened to be here will say Kerala is not just a strip of land on the South-end of India. I’m privileged to live in this wonderland.

Kerala Geography
Kerala is a narrow strip of land bordered on the east by high mountain ranges, Western Ghats and on the east by Arabian Sea. I doubt the parallel running of seashore and high mountains exists somewhere else. A Sixty KM journey from any of the exotic Kerala beaches can take you to a misty hill station. There are only three major gaps in the Western Ghats and the most important one is Palakkad Gap, where Kerala is connected to neighboring Tamil Nadu.

Between the beaches and hill stations there are Kerala backwaters. Plenty of them concentrated mainly to the south of Central Kerala. From Thiruvallam backwaters to Kuttanad backwaters, these all are places of tranquility and pristine charm. Time seems to standstill at these places.

Kerala Culture
Culture of Kerala is simply the most diverse in the whole world. In this small land there are people of all religious faiths who have different dress code, food habits, festivals and dance forms. Hindus, Muslims, Christians live here in unison. (Even Jews were here at Mattancheri in Kochi, who have left for their homeland recently.)

Kerala Festivals
Festivals of Kerala are also much diverse. The important of them are Kerala temple festivals. They all display color and grandiose.

National Festival of Kerala, Onam rouses the passion of every Malayalee and from different parts of the world they reach their homes to celebrate Onam with their dear and near ones. This is a harvest festival and is the carnival of Kerala.

Other major festivals are Thrissur Pooram, full night grand display of fireworks, lining up of 60 sacred elephants, thousand percussionists’ performance in unison and much more. Attukal Pongala a religious sacrifice exclusively for women, where they offer Pongala on earthen pots to the Idol of Attukal temple.

Kerala Cuisine
Cuisine of Kerala is so diverse that you can’t taste every item in Kerala menu even in a year. The local tastes change as we travel just 30km. Neighboring districts Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam tastes are different, the snacks items prevalent in one place may not be seen elsewhere. Again Onam festival and wedding occasions bring out the famous Sadya, a vegetarian meal rich with a variety of side dishes.

I will post my experiences at different places of Kerala in this blog. If you want a reminder, do email me at