ALAPPUZHA | VENICE OF THE EAST
Alappuzha (Malayalam: ആലപ്പുഴ), also known as Alleppey, is a town in Alappuzha District of Kerala state of southern India. A town with picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches, and lagoons, it was described as the List of places known as Venice of the East by Lord Curzon. It is the administrative headquarters of Alappuzha District. Alleppey has a wonderful past. Though the present town owes its existence to the sagacious Diwan Raja Kesavadas in the second half of 18th century, district of Alappuzha figures in classical Literature.
Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala with the unending stretch of paddy fields, small streams and canals with lush green coconut palms , was well known even from the early periods of the Sangam age. History says Alappuzha had trade relations with ancient Greece and Rome in B.C and in the Middle Ages, as well as with other parts of India. Alappuzha has a lighthouse, which is a major tourist attraction.
Alleppey/ Alappuzha is the hub for backwater tourism in Kerala. House boats locally called “Kettuvallam” are available on hire on a daily basis as well as for longer duration to take visitors on the old waterways. These house boats in general have 2 bed rooms and attached bath rooms. Some of the boats have the bedrooms fitted with air conditioners. A routine trip includes food cooked on board in the traditional Kuttanad style. The leisurely cruises show a microcosm of life on the water side with breath taking views of the water, land, birds and human habitations. Alappuzha is a center for coir industries. The unique distinction of Alappuzha is that, it is the only district in Kerala without forest.
Washed by the silvery waves of the Arabian Sea, Alappuzha, the Venice of the East welcomes you to the backwaters of kerala. The Palm fringed canals and shores bustling with glimpses from the day to day life in the country side, the mirror still lagoons, picture book lakesides and its long sandy beach has blessed Alappuzha, the water locked district, to become one of the best Backwater tourism destinations in God’s Own Country.
The large network of canals provide Alleppey its lifeline. Water carnivals using the gigantic snake boats and the country canoes of varying sizes have an important role in the community life of the people of the district.
The month of August holds the prime attraction to the civilians and the tourists as it is the time of the spectacular event -the Nehru Trophy Boat Race that is held on the second saturday of August every year. A cruise on an elegant House boat offers a rare chance to view the attractive dense palm groves that are so characteristic of Kerala’s landscape.
This district is also notable for its numerous pilgrimage centres that draw vast crowds on the festival days and also boasts of having some of the best ayurvedic rejuvenation centres in Kerala. This Venice of the East is also famous for its coir and carpet industries in addition to featuring many other attractions of tourist importance.
ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO
Alappuzha Lighthouse : The Alappuzha Lighthouse is situated in the coastal town of Alappuzha, Kerala. It was built in the year 1862 and is a major tourist attraction. Vistors are allowed between 1500 hours and 1630 hours on every weekday at an admission fee of ten rupees.
Alappuzha Beach : Alappuzha beach is one of the most popular spots in the district of Alappuzha. Its beautiful garden on the shore gives an exclusive sight. Imposing buildings of a colonial past overlook the shore. The pier, which extends into the sea is more than 140 years old and is a rare sight. Dense Palm groves at one end and an ancient towering light house at the other, Vijay Park and Sea view park are all spectacular sights one should never miss. Boating Facility is available in both Parks.
Facilities at the Vijaya Beach Park: Boating, a children’s park with toy train and bicycles. Open from 1500 – 2000 hours.
Back Water Cruise : View the landscape beauty , monuments, temples,churches and industries of Alappuzha by cruising through its rivers,canals and backwaters.The starting point is from Alleppey and the finishing point is at Jetty .
The backwaters act as a vital waterway for the transport of goods, people and their produce are often the only link between isolated villages and crowded towns. In Kerala, the total expanse of backwater stretches over 1500 kms, with a network of 44 rivers, lagoons and lakes from north to south. Alleppey which forms the main part of this network has the peculiar geographical feature of having the water in level with the land. This gives the advantage of getting a closer look at the village life on shore while on a backwater ride.
A glide in a “Kettuvallam” (House boat) through the enchanting backwaters of Alleppey is sure to rob your heart. Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields and the neat tiny hamlets lined up along either sides of the canals are panoramic sights one can never forget. The Chinese fishing nets, the reminiscent of our past trade links, are also found on the way. Flocks of ducks swimming around the banks and tiny birds flying across the sky remains as enduring pictures reflecting the charm of this unique land.
The sparkling water and the caressing cool wind is a temptation too strong to resist. Country boats of various types crisscross the path with passengers from all walks of Kerala’s rural life ranging from milkman and newspaper boy to local politicians, priests and wedding parties. It is a unique experience as this is as close as one can get to feel the vibrant life in the countryside of god’s own country.
The boat cruise along the backwaters of Alleppey give one first hand experience of the life style; toddy tapping, fishing for small fry, Coir-making, prawn farming etc., which remains more or less unchanged over the years.
House Boats : A house boat is about 67 feet in length and has a width of around 13 feet in the middle. The materials that go into the making are all local and Eco friendly bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats, coir carpets etc. The main wood used is “Anjili”. The house boats have fully furnished single and double rooms with sundeck, private balcony with comfortable chairs, kitchen and toilet with WC. In addition there is also separate rest room for the crew. Traditional lanterns are used as lights. The crew includes a chef and two oarsmen.The cuisine is traditional Kerala flavour with the local specialities; delicious fish and prawns. There are single bedroom House boats for two people and two bedroom House boats for four people. Kettuvalloms or House boats (Riceboats) are country boats that were used in the early days for the transport of goods from the isolated interior villages to the towns. With the advent of roads, bridges and ferry services, gradually the Kettuvalloms went off the scene. Now these kettuvalloms are back again as a major tourist attraction. A ride on a Kettuvallom is a fabulous way to explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters.
Palace on Water (Static House boat) : This static luxury House boat has two bedrooms which can accommodate four persons. There is a balcony on top quite convenient to get a feel of the panoramic nature around. A similar balcony is also there below. Another feature is the sundeck for sunbaths. Canoes are always connected to the static House boat which takes the visitors for backwater cruises.
Boat Races : Alleppey is also known for its spectacular snake – boat races held on the second Saturday of August, every year. Snake boat races are the most significant traditional event in Alappuzha. These spectacular regattas are usually held between August and October, and involve long thin boats powered by up to 120 oarsmen. The most famous snake boat race is the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. This competition – the Nehru boat race takes its name from India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who inaugurated in 1952. It is excitement all around as snake – boats , each manned by over a hundred oarsmen, cut through the waters like wind. The event is a tremendous success with tourists and the local population alike.
Alappuzha district is proud of being the cradle of boat races. Other important boat races, namely the Payippad near Haripad, the Thiruvandoor, Neerettupuram, Karuvatta and Thaikkoottam boat races are held at different parts of the district during August-September . Thousands of people from all parts of the world come and witness these races.
Krishnapuram Palace : Located at a distance of 47 km from Alappuzha on the way to Kollam, this palace was built in the 18th century during the reign of Marthanda Varma. This palace is noted for its typical Kerala architecture, with gabled roof, dormer windows and narrow corridors. Here you will find the famous mural kept in the western end of the ground floor, called ‘Gajendra Moksham’ which is the largest mural in Kerala. There is also a museum of antique sculptures, paintings and bronze articles in the palace.
Kuttanad Region : The region is known as the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’. It is perhaps the only region in the world where farming is done below sea level. The boat trip to Changanacherry passes through this beautiful and fertile region.
Mullakkal Rajeswari Temple : It is dedicated to the Goddess Rajarajeswari. The nine day ‘Navarathri’ festival is celebrated twice a year and is of special significance to the people of Alappuzha. Another important festival of the temple is ‘Thaipooyakavadi’.
Pathiramanal : This is a small captivating island in the Vembanad Lake. Situated between Thaneermukkom and Kumarakom, this island is the favorite spot for hundreds of rare migratory birds from different parts of the world.
Ambalapuzha Temple : Constructed in the typical Kerala architectural style, this temple is famous all over India, and is renowned for the Palpayasam, the daily offering of sweet milk porridge. This temple witnesses the performance of Pallipana by Velans (sorcerers) once every twelve years. Paintings of the Dasavatharam (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) are displayed on the inner walls of the temple. The ‘Ottanthullal’, a satiric art form based on social themes was the brain child of the poet Kunchan Nambiar who performed it for the first time in the premises of this temple.
Arthunkal Church : This christian Pilgrim centre near Sherthalai is 22 km. north of alappuzha. The St. Andrews Church here was built by Portuguese missionaries. The annual feast of St. Sebastian is held here in the month of January.
Champakulam : The water logged village is also the place of oldest angadi (market) known as Kalloorkkadu angadi. The St. Mary Forane Church built in 427 A D is another major attraction famous for its beautiful mural paintings for both tourists and believers. In Champakulam you can see Nadubhagum and Champakulam snake boats which take part in the annual snake boat races.
Champakulam Church : The St. Mary’s Church is one of the oldest church in Kerala. It is said to be one of the seven churches established by St.Thomas. Tha annual feast is held on the 3rd Sunday of October. The feast of St. Joseph is celebrated on March 19th.
Chavara Bhavan : The ancestral home of the blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, lies 6 km. from Alappuzha. Thousands of devotees gather at this shrine. It can be reached only by boat from Alappuzha.
Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Mavelikkara : The shrine is known for the Kettukazhcha festival, which attracts a large number of devotees. The festival is held in Feb./Mar. and colourful procession is taken out.
Edathua Church : This church, dedicated to St. George is of special significance as it is believed that prayers and offerings here help in healing all kinds of mental disorders and other ailments. The annual feast is held from 5th – 7th May and attracts devotees from all parts of south India. The Church is just 24 kms. from Alappuzha.
Karumadikkuttan : Situated 3 km east of Ambalapuzha, this village is known for its 10th century Karumadikkuttan statue, a black granite figure of the great Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. There are many interesting legends connected to this idol.
Mannarsala : It is 32 kms. from Alappuzha near Haripad and is famous for the ancient temple of Sree Nagaraja, the King of Serpents. Pilgrims from all over the country assemble here during the two day annual festival.
Q S T and R Block Kayal[Lake] : These regions are famous for farming over reclaimed land from the backwaters. The area is protected by dikes built all around and reminds visitors of the famous dikes of Netherlands. A cruise along the canals here is quite a memorable experience.
Punnapra : A short distance from Alappuzha is Punnapra, a village which has gone down in history as the scene of a bitter and heroic fighting between the communists and Travancore State Police during the Punnapra Vayalar Communist uprising of 1946.
Mararikulam : Situated on the coast south of Alappuzha,12 Kms. from Alappuzha, it houses a quiet beach and has an adjoining fishing village. Pool, tennis, water sports and Ayurvedic treatments are the leisure time activities one can avail of.
Ambalapuzha : It is situated 14 kms. away from Alleppey. In its architectural features, the Sreekrishna Temple confirms the typical Kerala style. The temple is famous through out Kerala for ‘Palpayasam’ a milk porridge of exceptional sweetness offered to the deity.