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