Monday, December 19, 2011

Bhoothathankettu - A Dam Built by Demons

Bhooththankettu Dam
Bhoothathankettu on Periyar River is a scenic spot, where legends come alive. It was a nice trekking and picnic experience to this scenic spot on the banks of a beautiful river, covered on both sides by thick green forests.

We reached the spot on Sunday morning and our guide, Thankappan, took us on a short trekking trip through the forest. He explained the forest covers more than 100,000 hectre. The forest is also home to almost all kinds of wild animals, including elephants, bears, tigers, and king of snakes - King Cobras.

King Cobras' Natural Habitat

King Cobras caught from different parts of the state are let free in this forest and its population is quite high in this area. He reassures there haven't been a single attack by these kings against humans. And, there are a good number of humans inside the forest too.

Our guide was also an expert of plants & trees, especially climbers. The story of a particular climber named 'Chela' fascinated us. Birds like the fruits of this climber. The seeds would sprout only after going through a bird's intestine. However, the seed doesn't sprout if it falls on land. Its easy stage of life is on top of a tree. From there, there will be several roots running to the ground and branches growing upwards. The sad thing is, the climber will become a tree, killing the tree that has given it the space to grow. The climber will then become a tree, after eating its host.

Well, another attraction was a mineral water source. The water is tasty and pleasantly cold. I never liked cold water stored in fridge. The water here was cold, but not chilling. This water has medicinal properties too.

A Cave for Adventurers

We come to expect caves in forests and this forest was no exception. A cave was there. Only one person can pass through the cave at a time. The guide explained there was one path leading directly into the earth. Legend has it, this is the path demons use to reach the nether land. Twenty minutes' crawling along the other path inside the cave is a thrilling experience if you are not afraid of bats and porcupines.

Periyar is beautiful at Bhoothathankettu

The Legend of Bhoothathan Kettu

Legends tell you the natural dam-like structure was built by bhootham (demons, evil spirits, ghosts - I am not sure about the exact translation). Legend has it Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi lived here. Once Shiva told his consort that he would return to her after one month's meditation. She waited for more than three months and her husband didn't return. So she went inquiring and found out the truth behind her husband's meditation.

He was having an affair with Ganges. Soon, there was a fight between Parvathi and Ganga. Shiva promptly absconded from the scene. Enraged, belittled and hurt, Parvati planned revenge against Ganga and her village. She conceived an idea.

He called the bhootas (demons) and gave them a quotation to build the dam across the wide river. This would change the course of the river and sweep Ganga's village, Trikkariyoor. Demons were afraid of Lord Shiva, but they didn't want to estrange the Goddess too. So they agreed to build a check dam across the river on one condition. They will build the dam until it is morning. They will stop working once it is dawn.

Demon Carrying Boulder
The demons carried boulders from far and near and was building a dam. Lord Shiva understood this plot through his third eye (or was it sixth sense? I am not so sure). The dam was almost finished. Lord Shiva wanted to distract the demons to save his girlfriend's village. He took the shape of a rooster. When the dam was almost complete, he crawed 'cock-le-doo'. The demons thought it was dawn and they fled the scene without finishing the dam.

You can see huge boulders on both sides of the river (the demons brought them, but left before the dam is finished).

A few hundred meters down the man-made dam, you can see this 'almost finished' dam built by super human forces. The reality can be, floods brought boulders from atop the hills and dumped them at this place.

A Nice Picnic All the Way

Believing or not, the legend was much more beautiful than the scientific explanation. Any way, it was a refreshing trip through the forest.

Later, we ate the lunch we brought with us on the banks of Periyar. The water was crystal clear, everyone took a dip, which lasted hours.

Boating is also available in the reservoir.

Nearby places are: Salim Ali National Park (bird sanctuary at Thattekkad), Idamalayar Dam and power house.

Bhoothathankettu at Google Maps: click here!

More details at official Kerala Tourism site.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kumarakom Boating, Bird Sanctuary at Kottayam

Located on the shores of Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary in Kottayam is touted as ornithologists' paradise. It will be a paradise of ornithologists only when the Siberian and other birds start arriving here in late November through late January.

I have visited the place two times. I haven't seen any birds on both occasions. Then again, I visited the place off season and I reached the place in the afternoon. Avid bird watchers (evidently I am not one) vouch to visit the sanctuary early in the morning to get a glimpse of birds leaving the nests in search of food. Maybe, I will visit this place once again while in season. In any case, the walk the paved path along the 14 acres of mangrove forest is a hearty experience.

If it is not raining, you can enjoy boating along the Vembanad Lake. There is also water routes connected to Kottayam and Alappuzha from Kumarakom. Boating is always a great experience. You can enjoy the cool tropical climate, rich water bodies, and splendid greenery.

Location @ Google Maps

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tripunithura Hill Palace Photos

Here are a few photos I have taken while visiting Tripunithura Hill Palace, Ernakulam the other day. Read the post on Tripunithura Hill Palace.

A view of Garden in front of Hill Palace, Kochi

 Getting out and seeing new places has been my hobby, for which I am dedicating very little time now a days.

However, when I feel like it, there nothing stopping me from getting out and reaching the place I plan to visit.

This visit to Tripunithura Hill Palace has been a very unplanned one.

 There seems more than few dozen buildings - all built in the traditional architecture style.

One of the buildings had a thularithara (a platform to grow a tulsi (holy basil) plant, which is a common sight of old houses in the state.

The plant has great medicinal values.
 The carpenters would have done a great job, making the frames on which to lay the tiles. Under the tiled roof, you don't need AC to escape from the boiling sun.
 The photograph on the left and the one above that shows the path from inside the palace to the pond, where the palace people used take a bath.

By the sight of it, the original of this structure was damaged and destroyed, replaced with a relatively new one.
 A scene from the garden. click to see it big.
Another scene of the garden. It is simply great.
 A side of the palace.
 Tripunithura Hill Palace is welcoming with the exteriors filled with plants.
 A view of the hill palace.
 The terraced garden of Tripunithura hill palace. You can see the place on the background.
The trees in the compound keeps it cool, even under sun.

location @ Google Maps

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tripunithura Hill Palace, Kochi

Last Sunday was a nice day with a quick visit to Tripunithura Hill Palace, the largest archaeological museum in Kerala.

We reached the place at around 12 noon. Being advised the museum will be closed at 12.30, we (my wife, Seeja and I) decided to explore the expansive terrace garden. We could enjoy the interiors at leisure when it reopens at 2PM.
Front view of Tripunithura Hill Palace, Kochi

The garden, although showing signs of wear and inattention, is wonderful with several thousands of plants and hundreds of trees. I think they have planted several plants of medicinal value.

There was a place to buy plants too. The claim was you can buy any variety of plants from here, but was disappointed with the dismal collection of plants for sale.

Luckily, you can take photographs of the garden. (You can't take camera or any electronic gadget inside the museum).

The compound houses a deer park, where we saw visitors feeding fallen leaves to the deer. I wonder if feeding the animals is permitted anywhere else. Then again, it is a nice sight to see the large herd of spotted deer.

The surroundings also include a children's park, a pre-historic park (displaying a life-size dinosaur, which I doubt is a T-Rex), a pond (you won't feel like touching the water though), lots of sculptures, and (I think) more than 40 buildings of traditional architecture.

The roofs of the buildings are all tiled. Only skilled carpenters can set the frames for laying the tiles. The roofed walk from the palace to the pond is a nice sight and offers a cool seclude under the scathing sun. It is a wonder the insides of the buildings are always cool - without any AC or fans.

By 2pm, we have finished checking the gardens and got into the museum. It was a palace built by the Maharaja of Cochin in 1865, which was handed over to the Department of Archaeology by the Royal Family in 1980. They converted the palace into a museum and opened it to the public in 1986.

Inside the palace, the floors are tiled. The smooth, colourful tiles feel cold while stepping on. No two rooms appear to have the same design of tiles.

The displays include mural paintings, sculptures, chariots, swords, guns, and several hundreds of equipments that have been in use a long time ago. It also displays kitchen equipments (like wooden chopping board), household items, etc that regular people used at their homes.

The part I liked the most is a vault, guarded by policemen. Inside it, you could see centuries old gold ornaments. There is also a golden crown that weighs more than 1.5kg, decorated with more than hundred precious stones of all kinds. The same vault (or is it a locker) has an Odyanam (an ornament for the waist), which appears to weigh more than 2kg. I wonder how any woman had worn it.

The displays also include depictions of scenes from day to day life, from epics (like Ramayana), and from history.

click here for more photos.

For those who like to visit the place:

Entry fee: Rs.20
Working hours: 9.30am to 12.30pm, 2.00pm to 4.30pm
Closed on: Monday
Location (how to reach): Tripunithura is 12km south of Ernakulam (Kochi), approachable by road.

There is a railway station at Tripunithura (passenger trains and some express trains do stop there).

I am not sure about spelling the place and I am confused with variations like Thrippunithura, Tripunitura, Trippunithura, etc.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Onam Illumination Works TVM 2011 Photos

The illumination work is a regular feature of Onam festivities in the city. I have been seeing the illumination works since I was a child. I still find it amusing.

I have taken a few photos of the illumination works, which I post below. (click on the images to view the pictures in larger size).

Onam Illumination in 2008

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Onam Festival 2011 Trivandrum

The capital city is all set for an extravaganza of Onam festivities. The seven-day celebrations begin on September 7, with Chief Minister Sri Oommen Chandy opening the fiesta at the Chandrashekhran Nair stadium.

The programmes include several traditional and modern performing arts. The music shows include a conglomerate of traditional artistes from different states, along with playback singers on 7th evening at Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium. The same venue will witness Ganamela (music performance) by M.G.Srikumar,Anwar Sadath, and comedy show by Babu Jose and Biju Jose.

Programmes and venues

Ganamela (M.G.Sreekumar & Anwar Sadath) - 8 Sep Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium

Comedy Show (Babu Jose& Biju Jose)

'Manpazham' (poems recital by various poets)

'Tharolsavam' (dance and singing programme by serial artists) 9 sep  Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium

'Indradanuss', a programme to honour cine artist Jagathy Sreekumar
Ganamela by Sujatha Mohan, Swetha Mohan, sreenivas, Lakhmi priya

Comedy show by Kottayam Nazeer team - 10Ssep Chandrashekharan Nair Stadium

Down to earth (Music Band by Biji bal and Team), dance (thandra), Comedy Challenge ( Live Comedy reality Show) 11 sep  Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium.

Metro Nilav ganamela ( Mano, Anwar, Akhila, Nishanth), 'Mimicri' (cinimala team), dance ( Shano cazim and team) - 12 Sep Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium

Onam extreme ganamela ( Rimi tommy, Afsal and Vidhu Pradhap) 13 sep Chandrashekharan Nair Stadium.

Classical dance forms (various) - Nishagandhi auditorium

Classical dance solo - Vylopilli sansikriti bhavan

Ganamela (madhu balakrishanan, Gayanthri, Jassi Gift, Najeem arshad, Raja Lekhmi, Ravi Shankhar, Jose Sagar, etc) - Poojappura Ground

Nadan kalakal (folk-art) - kanakakunnu mini stage

Painting exhibition - Kanakakunnu Palace

Karnatic music - Kanakakunnu Palace

Drama VGT hall

Drama N.Krishan Pillai Foundation auditorium

Panchavadyam - Kanakakkunnu gate

Magic & comedy show - Museum auditorium

Women and children programme - Institute of Engineers Hall

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Athapoo 2011 Welcome to Onam

Today is Atham (a day in Malayalam calender) and on the tenth day of today is Thiruvonam (Onam).

Athappoo (also called athapoo, athappookkalam, onapookkalam, etc), is certain floral arrangement that people create based on certain athapoo designs. Pookalam designs remained a simple affair for several decades.

Then came athappoo competitions and we started seeing complex athappoo designs.

Children make this athapoo in front of their homes or on the roadsides to welcome Onam. When you see flowers everywhere, you know Onam is at the door.

Dear friends, I wish you smashing Onam celebrations :)

Athapoo -(click on image for larger size)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tamarind Hotel, Restaurant at Neyyar Dam

After several hours of boredom at home, my wife and I set out and reached Neyyar Dam for a relaxing afternoon.

The crocodile breeding center had an off day, but we could see a small herd of spotted deer at the Deer Rehabilitation center. We also spent some hours walking over the dam, spending some time at the park, and climbing the observation tower.

tamarind ktdc hotel neyyar dam
KTDC Hotel Neyyar Dam
When we thought about tea and some refreshments, I felt like there isn't any decent hotel at all. I have seen the Tamarind Restaurant run by KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation), but haven't tried it till now. It is a budget hotel and with a decent restaurant.

While waiting for our food to arrive, we could watch motor boats taking off in different directions in the reservoir, while a cool breeze from the lake caressed our faces.

And, the food is nice and not very costly, we enjoyed a nice eating experience after quite some time.

The Food is Nice

Monday, July 04, 2011

National Treasure Now in Kerala Capital

Reading reports of treasure trove at Padmanabhaswami Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is as incredible as watching the film National Treasure, starred by Nicholas Cage. Oh, WSJ calls it: A Kerala Temple’s ‘Indiana Jones’ Moment.

Go through a few news reports from around the world. I can't tell anything about the discovering without sounding exaggerated.

Daily Mail UK: Treasure trove of jewels, coins and other valuables 'worth billions' is unearthed in Indian temple

Reuters: Huge treasure trove discovered under southern Indian Hindu temple

Mirror UK: Treasure found beneath Indian temple

Irish Times: Indian treasure worth €1bn recovered from vault unopened for 140 years

The Australian: Indian temple yields treasure

Voice of America: Treasure Worth Billions Found in Indian Temple Treasure trove discovered in Indian temple

The Voice of Russia: Multibillion-dollar treasure found in Indian temple

It appears press around the world is celebrating the National Treasure. Treasures in Pyramids of Egypt may be bigger. Haven't heard anything comparable in recent times.

Will they display all the finds in a museum so that tourists from around the world can be mesmerized? I wish so. We may not be like Indiana Jones. But, we surely like to see a treasure.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Somatheeram Beach Photos

Somatheeram is a beautiful beach near Kovalam in Kerala. It is a secluded and laid back beach, known for the famous Somatheeram Ayurvedic Beach Resort.

The rocks, the sands, and the sunlight are beautiful. Relax on the sand or climb the rocks. Watch the beautiful sunset from atop the rocky terrains. This beach retains its pristine beauty.

The Ayurvedic beach resort is one of the oldest in India. You can get authentic Ayurvedic treatments at the resort, which the beach is known for. I saw a few foreigners at the beach, who were all there for the treatment.

The rocky beach also is filled with coconut palms. They shade the beach from the hot sun.

There were only a few visitors to the beach, offering it an almost deserted look.

How to Reach:

Somatheeram Beach is just 21 KM from Trivandrum City. It is very near to the hallmark of Kerala Tourism, Kovalam. The place is Chovvara.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thommankuthu Waterfalls and Eco-Tourism

Thommankuthu in Idukki district of Kerala welcomes visitors with its wild beauty. Located 17 km from Thodupuzha, Thommankuthu offers a great opportunity for jungle trekking.

You can trek up hill, up till you reach the source of the river. There are also some tribal settlements, which you can reach via Thommankuthu.

A Scene from Thommankuthu
The rock-filled river offers a mesmerising experience. On our way up, we saw a steep, well-shaped rock. My friends challenged me to climb the rock. I said climbing the rock is no problem, but climbing down will certainly be a big problem. Such is the shape of the rock. If you run from top of the rock, you will lose control, unless someone else can catch and stop you. Then again, I challenged myself to climb the rock. You feel like running down, but the slope is steep and you cannot stop running until you fall into the river in front. I came down slowly, as if crawling down.

The enormous rocks challenge you and intimidate you. You feel like climbing every rock. Behind the rocks are some caves, some of them accessible only through the river.

thommankuthu waterfalls, kerala eco tourism
From atop a waterfall in Thommankuthu, Kerala
There are 10 or 12 waterfalls in the river. With proper precautions, you can take a bath above or below the waterfalls. The water is fresh, cold and inviting.

Big rocks - an attractive feature of Thommankuthu falls