Thursday, November 12, 2009

Padmanabapuram Palace

An elegant palace built with brick and mortar, along with liberal use of teak wood and brick tiles for roofing has been constructed by Marthanda Varma in 1744 AD after demolishing the mud Kaikulam Palace. The Kaikulam Fort and Palace was renamed Padmanabapuram palace as a dedication to Lord Padmanabha.

The Travancore Royal family followed matrilineal system of succession. The kings were succeeded by their sisters son. The old Princely state of Travancore was developed from the ancient kingdom of Venad which occupied western portion of Indian Peninsula. This kingdom formed as descendants of the ancient Chera Kings, whose celeberated capital is now known as Kodungalloor.


The entrance to the main edifice is controlled by another ornamental gateway with retainers for watch and ward. The gabled entrance has wooden ceiling profusely ornamented with lotus medallions. The most striking feature of the entrance is the clock-tower which is one of the oldest in India erected in 1832 A.D. and still continues to be in working order. The clocks chiming is heard around the surroundings as far 3 km in the night time.

The first floor the Poomuham has a council chamber or Mantrasala which is meant for holding discussions with ministers and prominent citizens. The floor off this hall, which is polished with the admixture of coconut shell ashes, eggs fermented in molasses and lime reflects the figure like a mirror. Next to the Mantrasala is the Dancing Hall which was used exclusively for the members of the royal family.

Adjacent to the Council Chamber and to the south of dancing hall is the dinning hall called “Uttupura”, with two floors (the ground and the first) each measuring roughly 78 by 6 metres and it would accommodate about 2000 people at a time. Feeding of about 2000 poor persons, it is said, was done here every day and so the king was called ”Dharmaraja”.

The most attractive building in the whole palace is the ‘Uppirika Malika’ which consists of three storied. ‘Uppirika’ is the abbreviated term of ‘Muppirika’ which means the residence of the eldest member of the family. A wooden cot is erected on the top most floor in the belief that “Lord Vishnu” the chief deity. The first floor contains a wooden cot made of 64 medicinal plants, on which Maharaja used to sleep. The medicinal cot was presented to Maharaja “Marthanda Varma” by the Dutch East India Company in 1750, as a mark of friendship. Entry to the second and third floor is not allowed due to structural weakness. Certain artifacts are alleged to have been stored here. All the staircases are wooden.

To the west of the Zuppirika Mandapa is the Navarathri Mandapa which is a spacious hall of exquisitely beautiful granite pillars with drooping pendants reminiscent of the Nayakar style of architecture. In the Navarathri Mandapa, performances of Bharatha Natya and musical recitals took place in the royal presence.

Famous Kings of Travancore ( Venad )

1. Ayyanatikal Thiruvatikal 840 – 860 AD

2. Ravi Varma Kulasekharan 1282 – 1314AD

3. Udaya Marthanda Varma 1578 – 1592AD

4. Marthanda Varma 1729 – 1758AD

5. Raja Ravi Varma ( painter ) 1848 – 1906AD

Currently the Palace is maintained and managed jointly by the Government of Kerala and TN under the administrative control of Govt of Kerala, being located in TN. Padmanabapuram palace is both beautiful and function designed to suit the humid weather conditions prevailing with high roofs. The building is always cool and quiet from inside. Most of the material used were domestic such as Laterite stones, Teak wood, burnt bricks, granite and Lime. The shiny black polish on the floor was created from a combo of charcoal produced from coconut shell, lime, white from egg and various other vegetable extracts. In order to preserve the polish visitors are not allowed to wear shoe or slippers inside the palace.

The rooms on the ground level was mainly used for storage. On the first floor the main dwelling for the kings were prevalent. The bathrooms had sewage connection passing through concealed channels. Lighting of the palace during the night was provided by Lamps.

There are temples in the court yard of the palace, they are Ramaswamy temple, Subramanya and Sarasvathy temple. Ancient painting, Wooden cots and chars, along with visitors durbar, etc are beautifully erected. The ventilation is of high class.

A museum is also constructed by the ASI in keeping with the splendour architecture of the palace housing various artifacts.


Entry Fee Rs 25 for Adult & Rs.10 for Children.

Fees for Foreigners : Adult Rs 200 & Children Rs 50

Video and Camera Fee are Rs 1500 & Rs 25 Respectively

Separate fee for Car parking

Closed : Mondays

LOCATION : Padmanabapuram palace is actually in Tamil Nadu but all its heritage and roots are of kerala. It is almost bordering kerala in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. One can reach Padmanaburam from Kanyakumari which around 40 kms and from Trivandurm which is approximately 60 km. Otherwise a round taxi trip can cover various other destinations from Kanyakumari.

Trivandrum, capital of Kerala

Kerala is filled with Nature, Ayurvedic massages and Beaches. In a conservative land which is filled with strikes at the drop of the hat. One can never be sure when the market bandh is called, and many a times over frivilious reasons. No wonder, however mighty and influential industrialist, he would not stick out his neck to start an industry. Under such a circumstance Kerala’s economy is thriving on NRI income, Booming Real Estate, Retail including Jewellery and partially tourism.

Ayurvedic Massage :

The art of masseur seems to have been passed from generations and now perfected into a College or Vaidyashala. The root of ayurvedic treatment is obviously located @ Kottakal. One can find solace depending on their budget. Some of the treatments may be prohibitively expensive. Well I keep wondering how is the Bangkok massage different from kottakal one. Maybe the fingering technique is different. Lol.

Some of the well to do customers would not like to be seen in their own backyard getting a massage done. I knew a NRI and his family who preferred to get their massage done at Koramangala, Bangalore @ Rs 500/ per head. Even Gokula Ayush @ Ramiah hospital seems to have well developed facility. It is sad that they don’t have their own pharmacy, one has to depend on outside prompting me to send an email to their management.

The costliest treatment seems to be Piddichil in which can cost Rs 350 upwards plus the taila cost, inclusive can range from 800 to 1200 per day. This treatment involves dropping of the oil from a brass ware onto the forehead. Then soaking up the entire hair and body with oil. The logic of blocking up all the pores in the body and than steaming it does open up all the pores. One tends to sweat, and silently melt away the oil from the body. If one has a hot water bath it will drain all the traces of oil. Taking the course further one has to just mix cold and hot water bath to finally seal the effect of opening and closing the skin pores. It sounds practical solution, why not do the same at home some skeptics may question. No way I want to have great holiday to get it done professionally. Keep coming, we love you all says the masseur.

Nature may welcome many a visitors but men around are not very tourist friendly on the ground. In order to visit this picturesque state it is better to have a local guide, friend or an ethical travel agent. In fact I was surprised by the attitude of the local tourism KTDC personnel when I visited them. They were selling package to Munnar and Thekady at 5 k plus per day stating that it was American plan etc. When compared to KSTDC where the rental tariffs vary between Rs 100 for a dormitory Rs 264 for double room , Rs 1200 @ premium destination like Hampi, it is really dis heartening for any traveler to be let down by a Govt. Organisation. Of course for super luxury package of Golden chariot is available for foreigners and first class travelers at Rs 12 K per day. Basically the basket for tourism should vary from backpackers, budget, Middle class and First class travelers. Corporate clients of course get a bargain deal in terms of budget prices in view of their clout. Well the to my surprise when the man behind the counter told me that even foreigners do not much patronize their packages, except a select North Indian group, it was an eye opener.

Nevertheless if one is fond of nature and its beauty one does not mind getting his pocket pinched willfully. The duration of the program can be reduced according to the budget. Some the cuisine in kerala like currymeen,avial,duck fry,chilly beef, etc are delicacies along with puttu curry,iddiappam,malabar parotha etc.


Sri Padmanabha swamy temple renovation was undertaken by Marthanda Varma during his reign ( 1729 -1758 ). The original temple seems to have been built by the Chera rulers. Padmanabha swamy is an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The british govt. maintained the tradition of 21 gun salute during the British Raj times, which was abolished post independence.

The temple gopuram is seven tier and rises above 101 feet. There is small pond in front of the temple, which is usual tradition for most Hindu temples, wherein devotees used to wash their feet.

One cannot just enter this temple like a free bird. The male are subject to total transformation with dhoti, shawl etc. One is compelled to deposit their camera, cellphone, handbag, pant, shirt etc at the temple run security room. Depending on ones belongings one may get poorer by Rs 70. The funny justification given by staff is that many piligrims do not donate and this is a indirect way of ensuring collection for which they are proud. The temple can charge entry ticket and allow non hindus and followers to visit the temple, which may increase the collection rather than fleecing the Hindus in the name of tradition or indirect fund generation. Majority of the temples do not allow non-hindus, which is so tourist unfriendly.

The Lord Padmanabha or Vishnu is in reclining , sitting and standing posture. There are some traditions associated with these postures, and the procession of the Lord is taken out only in sitting posture. The main idol shows the Lord sleeping on the anantha or serpant. There are other deities such as Narasimha, Krishna, Ayyappa, Ganesh and Hanuman. There are 324 sculpted pillars. The entire verandah of the temple has different pillars embedded with postures of apsaras and menakas with full bust. These statues are wet with oil and other stains which are performed during some utsav.

There are number of mural paintings on the temple ceiling pertaining to Epic period of Ramayan and Mahabharat along with vedic times. Some of the paintings are still in good condition.

EAST FORT & Palace

The Eastern fort signifies the direction in which the enterance archway is built by the kings of Travancore. The palace is located within the premises. Outside the Fort an important bus terminus is located for buses plying to different parts of Kerala.


It was originally the residence of the Kings of Travancore. A number of artifacts, oil paintings, urns, portraits, gift items, household articles, etc are found in this museum palace. Majority of the royalty collections are stored in this museum. The kings later shifted their residence to more contemporary place in Kowdiar Palace.

The palace was built by Maharaja Swathi Tirunal Balarama Varma, the King of Travancore who was also a great poet, musician, social reformer and state man. This palace has wooden carvings in the traditional Travancore style. It is situated on the South East side of Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple

Apart from the architectural wonders, the premises conducts classical musical festivity during Jan and Feb months. The edifice is built in classical kerala style architecture, combining wood, high tiled roofs and red oxide polished floors etc.


The wonderful edifice was constructed combining Kerala, Italian, Moghul and Chinese style of architecture by the british chief architect Robert Chrisholm. The building with high roofing has natural air-condition which is pleasant even during summer months.

There are numerous bronze idols dating back to Chola, Chera, Pallava and Hoysala period. A number of ivory carvings, figures of kathkali dancers, a life size temple chariot, wooden model of palaces, coins and many historical collections are all stored in this museum. Majority are left over courtesy British benevolence.

The museum is named after the Lord Napier, Governor of Madras ( 1866-1872) in whose jurisdiction Travancore was falling. The Museum work began in 1855 and completed in 1880.


This art gallery contains maximum paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, who was a master artist, who wielded his brush to perfection. There are some paintings of Nicholas Reorich, Picasa and other famous artists of times. Some of the paintings of the kings and british general are 3 D which move as one cuts across the room. The head seems to literally follow.


One of the oldest established in 1857 as an annexure to the Napier Museum. The museum was originally set up for entertainment and re-locating trapped animals. Then it became a place for conservation of rare breed of animals and birds. In modern era Zoo has become a form of conservation of rare wild animals.

This zoo contains The Zoo has 75 different species of animals not only from India but from abroad also. It also has several species of animals and birds from Ethiopian and Australian Zoo geographic regions. The Lion tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Rhino, Asiatic Lion, Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopord are prominent among the indigenous endangered fauna. Giraffe, Hippos, Zebra, Cape Buffalo are the guests from African region.


The beach must have been a favourite visiting spots of the Maharaja of Travancore. Sea Loving Britishers discovered it as an entertaining place for swimming and spending some lovely moments with their family members in the 1930’s. In the 70’s the hippies swarmed this beach for a free run. They were captivated with the locale and freedom. It became popular as the first nude beach in India, alleged to popular as Topless beach with no invasion of privacy. Now it is banned, but it is still favourite for bikni parade and sun-tanning. The ayurvedic parlours are in plenty in and around the beach. The sand is partially black in nature due to presence of ilemenite and thorazite, which are used in pigmentation. Don t be surprised if you are bitten by mosquitos on the beach, so please carry mosquito lotion or spray to protect oneself in the evenings.

KOCHI, gateway to Gods own country

Cochin is the colonial name for Kochi. It boasts of A world class port city, and International airport @ Angamalli, connected to almost all parts of the globe. The roads are better networked when compared to the capital, and being centrally located it is also known as gateway of Kerala. Ernakulam is the business district of Kochi, and practically Fort Kochi,Angamally, Cherai, Ernakulam all form a part of the greater Kochi. One should not be surprised by so many other names of the suburb township such as Alwaye, Parur, Nayarambalam, Edapally, Town, etc which all refer to the base town.

The genesus of the word Kochi is subject of speculation some claim since the chinese had trading connection with Kochi, it was named after their homeland away from China as KO CHI or the reverse of CHI KO which phoenetically sounds chinese. Another theory in malayalam lingo Kachi means harbour which is chritianed as Kochi.

Kochi Harbour :
Cranganore is the original port town of which was destroyed by massive flooding of Periyar river in 1340, most of the foreign travellers had connection with Kochi due to this old port town. Kochi became a part of the British empire in 1814 after the defeat of the Dutch and a new port town of Wellington was created. The magnificient remanents of the Dutch Fort point to the systematic destruction to accommodate the new British empire. Now it is part of the naval base, airport and command.

Kochi Fort :
The permission to build the first european Fort was given by ruler of Kochi to Portuguese around 1530 AD and the Fort built was known as Fort Emmaneul or Maneul Kotta in local lingo. The Dutch built their own Fort known as Fort Williams and they succeeded the Portuguese in occupying the town.

Trading :
When Vasco de gama landed here he came primarily for trading of spices which was grown in plenty in these parts with virgin soil. Pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves are all standards of spice world over. They still hold a high brand value in world market. Foreign travellers, Fa-hien, Huen Tsang, Vasco-de-gama, & Nicolos Conti have sung praise for this land of spices. ‘ In china one makes money and in Kochi one ends up spending ‘ No wonder Gods own country is the place to splurge.


The entire backwaters and beach front around Kochi is filled with ancient heritage of Chinese fishing nets. The majority of these nets are found in Fort Kochi and Vypeen area. Apart from china, Kochi is the only area where these peculiar fishing practise is carried out. Most of the fishes trapped in these nets are curry mean, sardines and other smaller varities. Well no wonder the people from Kerala adore chinese despite their aggressive posture against India. It is surprising now Chinese citizens are hardly seen in Kerala


This church was originally built in 1503, which happens to be the oldest European church built by the Portuguese. Francisco De Almeida was permitted by the Raja to reconstruct the wooden church into a massive church with masonary. In 1516 the current church was completed and dedicated to Saint Anthony. Portuguese were catholics and Dutch were Protestants, when the Dutch took over the territory, they destroyed certain traces and converted the church into a govt one. Later it was handed over to british in 1814 and dedicated to St Francis. On this third visit Vasco de gama fell severly ill and died in 1524 and he was buried inside this church. His body was repatriated to Lisbon on popular request by the natives to honour such a great adventurer. The gravestone marking of Vasco’s burial is still retain for heritage purpose. A centoph is erected as a war memorial for those who died in World war 1 erected in 1920. Today the church is under the control of ASI but managed by CSI for masses. Majority of the artifacts seems to be placed in the museum obviously.


This palace was orginally built by Portuguese and handed over to the local Raja Veera Kerala Varm ( 1537-1565 ) in 1555. The Dutch carried out renovations in 1663 and from thereon the it became popular as Dutch Palace. In 1951, ASI took over and it was declared a protected monument and undertook full scale restoration to maintain the original flavour. Still some renovation work is scheduled to be complete in 2009.

This palace contains many artifacts collected by the dutch, gifts from the Rajas, and all finds in the area during their reign. Mural paintings in rich colours are in plenty, along with the Dutch army personnel and the Raja of times. Paintings on the first floor contain Krishna lifting Govardhan Hillock, Coronation of Rama, Lord Vishnu sleeping, Lakshmi seated on Lotus etc.

There are two temples on either side of this Mattancherry Palace one of Shiva and other of Vishnu.


This Jewish synagouge was built in 1568 by Malabar Yehudan, and it is known as Paradesi Synagouge. Paradesi typically means foreigner in Indian language. The Mattancherry palace temple and Synagouge share a common compound wall. The Malabari Jews were prosperous traders, who may have been directly competing with the Portuguese, which might have been the reason for their persecution. The original Synagouge was destroyed and the present one seems to have been rebuilt under Dutch Patronage. In 1968 the syngaouge celeberated 400th year anniversary and today it is almost 440 years old. Maybe a full scale celeberation in 2012 for completing 444 years is overdue. The unique feature of this synagouge is that it is filled with different types of chandeliers and chinese ceramic floors. Photographs are not allowed inside which is strange, maybe with special permission from the priestess, who seems to managing the show. The synagouge closes for lunch exactly at 1 pm so better visit this place early, otherwise one will be disappointed.


Wellington Island being one of the Biggest Hq of the Naval command in India has a magnificient museum dedicated to its seamen, who fought valiantly battles for the British and help to safe guard our huge 12000 km coastline from Dwarka to Calcutta. The Naval strategic importance is being enhanced with Sea Bird. This musuem contains various exhibits including shell of cruise missile, uniforms, helicopter, various types of ammunitions and guns. There is an auditorium showcasing the achievements of our Naval staff and seamen during a bitter war with Pakistan and liberation of Bangladesh. The navy played an important role even in rescue operations immediately after the boxer day Tsunami in 2004. I was given a brief of the naval history by one retired wartime seamen, that is how I came to know the importance of Cranganore, which many localities too are unaware of. In modern times it is known as Kodungallore, where the famous apostle St Thomas Anthony landed in 52 AD. If one gets friendly with the staff one can really get to know lot of details on the naval history.


This is currently under the jurisdiction of KTDC, it is run as a heritage hotel with a tariff plan equavalent to a 5 star hotel . The tariff plan during season is 10 K and off season is 6 K children will be charged extra @ 10%. We were unable to see this place due to barricading for a private wedding party. A ferry from marine lines of Ernakulam, near the high court can take one across to Bolghatty Isle. The route by road is long tedious. This dutch palace was built in 1744 by a dutch trader. Later the palace was leased to the British in 1909 and served as their residency till 1947.

I am still to complete the series on Gods own country…maybe a trip or two I will be able to complete my dedication and travelouge. I am lucky to have a friend based in Kochi to guide me, which enables me to probe further into the hidden mysteries of the past.

Angelo Fort, Kannur

The legacy of Portuguese, Dutch and the British is seen @ Fort St. Angelo. It was built by Sir Francisco De Almeida in 1505, ( almost 500 years old ) on the shores of Arabian sea, for guarding the town against attack from the sea by pirates and subsequently foreign enemies. The fort signifies the first sign of colonization attempt by Portuguese who had essentially landed in India for trading of spices on the Kerala coast. It was built by Almeida with the permission the prevailing king of kolathiri Raja.

The fort has been constructed using the laterite stones which are available in plenty in the region. These stone are amenable for strong construction due to its easy chiseling and blends very well with the limestone. Currently ASI is upgrading the Fort to its original grandeur using the same materials and conserving this magnifcient heritage of 4 different eras. Some of the fallen edifices are rebuilt and numbered according to the sequence. The evidence of the same can be found is some portions of the fort, in particular when one climbs toward lighthouse from the inner ramparts of the fort.

The Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese in 1663 and made some alteration to the fort. The epigraphical evidence is noticed on the tablet form of inscriptions on the walls of the fort. An ancient lighthouse was built to warn the ships of the shoreline which needed to sailed with caution due to prevalent rocky mass in the midst. This ancient lighthouse was later discontinued with the construction of a modern lighthouse by the british. The dutch sold the fort to Arrakkal Kings in 1772 before vacating the Indian shores due to trouble in their own country. The British captured the fort from the Arrakkal kings in 1790 and established it as the prime base shifting from Tellicherry fort because of the vantage location. They occupied the Fort and monitored the port of Mappila, which was essentially fishing and trading harbor after Kozhikode ( Calicut ). In 1947 when the british vacated India it was taken over by the ASI under the Indian Navy which has its presence in the huge complex. Maybe some of the old structures have been occupied from the British regime. The entire premise is very clean and well maintained by ASI and it is a wonder ful historical heritage and full of legacy of ancient strategies followed. The booming cannons are deployed all over the Fort at Vantage points.

One can find lot of videographers willing to shoot pictures of the family in a professional manner at a price. Some of them ape song and dance sequence in the locales. The fort contains the Barracks of soldiers and stables for the horses too. An armoury storing the gunpowder does not seem out of place considering the no of cannons.


An Iron pillar like structure situated on the upper strata of the Fort ramparts was used as a Lighthouse to warn the ships sailing towards the the coast the dangers of the rocky coastline. The coastline in the entire belt is littered with such rocky formations which can damage and sink a ship into the Arabian seas. The Portugues used to light the same using candles and reflect the light vide a magnifying mirror, to warn the ships of the imminent dangers.


There are number of cannons which are preserved in it s pristine state, which gives us the real feel of the times. It transports the visitors that entire Fortress is ever ready for a battle. Very few forts in India have the weaponary displayed in their premises. Most of them are either shifted to muesuems or parks.


A typical barrack of the Dutch era is seen in the fort premises, wherein the horses and soldiers lived side by side, guarding the entire fortress against the enemy attacks. The British may have used this place for their drills and flag hoisting ceremonies in all probability.

A beautiful painting of this elegant fortress and the fishing bay is displayed @ Rijks Museum in Amsterdam, Holland. The beheaded skull of Kunjalli Marakkar was exhibited @ the Fort premises by the dutch after his brutal assignation. There is museum of some of the exhibits which was closed at the time of my visit due to holiday I presume. May be I was so enamoured by the beauty of this fortress, I let go the museum.

One of the main high points of travel is in the form of Mappila cusine which is available in the restaurants @ kannur. The preparation in form of non veg delicacies with various spice mixture seems to be alluring. I just forgot to buy some authentic spices maybe next time around I will be able to purchase the same for domestic consumption.

Timings : Fort visiting time is 8.30 to 6.00 pm. The fort is guarded by tourism police and one of their constable Satyam has published a historical treatise on St Angelo fort. A video fee of Rs 25 is levied otherwise there is no enterance fee to the Fort.

Location : This fort is located approximately 3 kms from the Kannur Railway station, and autos generally charge double the meter ranging from Rs 25 to 40. The actual meter is only 13.60 exactly. Enroute one finds a small park maintained by the army which is full of antique weaponry used during the world war times. There is Mappilla Bay situation right opposite to the St Angelo fort and Arrakal museum located in parallel direction. Kannur has many other tourist attractions such as Payambalam Beach, Meenkunnu Beach, Snake park, Science Park, Folklore academy, Vallapatanam,Dharmadam Isle, Kunnimangalam, etc.

Bekal Fort, Legacy of the Nayaks

The transformation of Bekal Fort is amazing in terms of reconstruction to replicate the bygone era. The legendary defense citadel, When I visited the Fort in April 2005 I found it was absolute state of ruins and neglect beyond salvage. The facelift provided to Bekal Fort by ASI and district tourism board is commendable and requires special appreciation. I hope all other historical monuments are resurrected in similar fashion without too much modernity. Now Bekal Fort seems to be idyllic spot for picnic lovers, family outing, adventure and heritage tourists.


The history of the Fort construction is shrouded in mystery. However considering the architecture and style of construction, the construction seems to have begun by the rulers of Tulunadu, the Ikkeri Dynasty. Hiriya Venkatappa Nayak ( 1586 – 1629 ) is credited to have begun the construction of the fort in 1620 and it was completed during the period of Shivappa Nayak ( 1645 – 1660 ). The Nayaks are credited to have constructed number of other forts too such as Chandragiri Fort ( Kasargod ) & Hosadurg Fort ( Kanhagad ) which are all in various stages of ruin. Basically these forts were built to protect the territory against invasion from the sea, by various foreign rulers. The Fort served to protect their territory which extended from Coorg to Bhatkal. The Nayaks ( 1499 – 1763 ) were feudatory of the Vijaynagar empire.

After the battle of Talikot in 1565 when Vijaynagar empire decline began, the Nayaks began to exert considerable influence in the Konkan coast. There was intense battle between the Kolatharis and Nayaks to dominate these territories under Someshekar Nayak ( 1664 – 1672 ). He captured the entire region from Majeswar, Thaliparamba, Payyanur, Kanghad, Bekal and Panayal under his suzerenity.

The Nayaks were defeated by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and their trace from this area was eliminated. The carnage unleashed by Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan, forcible conversion etc belie history being a tolerant monarchs. During 1766 to 1799 both father and son unleashed a reign of terror in the Region. Majority of the Nairs and Brahmins were forcibly converted under the name of Jihad. The bodies of slain people were laid across the landscape and the skull of the beheaded victims were displayed in the Fort. In the bargain many a temples were destroyed too as a symbol of elimination of Idol worship. The Sultan did not carry out conversion in Mysore territory which shows his jekl and hyde nature. He wanted to be seen as religiously tolerant tyrant. The details of
Tipu’s legacy is furnished in this link

Tipu Sultan has developed a number of escape routes from this Fort, due to his constant sense of insecurity. He had unleashed a reign of terror in North Kerala, which is hidden from the annals of history. The bodies of triators and rebbellers were hacked and thrown into the well. The barricading of the well resembles like the Jallianwalla bagh. I hope the ASI put up a memorial in commemoration of the innocent lives which were lost during the Tipu's reign.

British took over the Fort after the fall of Tipu sultan and formed the new taluk of Bekal under the South Kanara district. The British seem to have destroyed the insignificant palace located in the premise of Bekal fort and robbed all its antiques and riches. After India attained independence, Bekal was re-organised in the Kasargod district which was included in Kerala state in 1956.


The construction and renovation of the fort has taken place from the time of Nayaks, reinforced by Tipu sultan with observatory tower, which gives a panoramic view of the entire landscape spread upto ullal and kanghad. The grooves for the cannons seem to have been installed by Tipu under the able assistance of the French with whom he had friendly relation, with their presence in Mahe, which is located in close proximity. The British subsequently fortified Bekal Fort only for military purpose without much administrative buildings. It served as a cantonment and strategic watch tower with a light house nearby which is almost similar to Kaup light house in construction.

The entire fort is constructed with Laterite stones and limestone combination. The fort has a moat surrounding with water jutting from the sea and exiting into the sea in a circular formation. It can be reasonably presumed that the waters were infested with crocs to protect the Fort against invaders.

Bekal Fort is surrounded on all three sides with water, and the balance through the moat filled with water. The Forth seems to be built on a hillock on two tier basis. The landscape inside the fort have been used strategically to locate the armory, elephants and horses.

A number of cannon slots are created pointing towards the sea, there are as many 14 watch towers in the forty acre fort. A well is now barricaded which served as fresh water source for drinking, collected from the natural rainfall. There are number of secret hideouts within the fort, which is well ventilated for survivors in case of Fort under seize. An armory is barricaded currently, traces of the palace destroyed is also seen, a modern rest house and small restaurant with seating space is located in the eastern portion of the Fort. The fort has been under renovation from 2005 and still to be completed to bring the original splendor.


Many a Malayalam films, particularly song and dance sequence have been shot in this wonderful locale. The song “ Tu hi re “ from the Bombay movie has been shot in the Fort ramparts. A safe beach is located adjacent to the Fort for sea lovers to swim and bathe.

Landmarks :

There is a grave of saint located just outside the fort premise which can be approached through an opening leading towards the outer portion of the fort walls. There a Hanuman temple at the enterance of the Fort, another Mosque is located just opposite to the Fort, Bekal Resorts and Development Corporation is trying to beautify the surroundings with landscaping and accommodation facility. Kasargod has plenty of jewellery outlets and was famous for smugglers in pre 1990s.


Bekal is located in between Kasargod and Kanghad towns. It can be reached by Air from Mangalore or Calicut. The nearest railway junction is either Mangalore, Kasargod or Kannur. The entry fee is Rs 5/- and Videography is charged Rs 25. From the main road it is just 600 meters.

Overall a visit to Bekal Fort captures the intrigues, conspiracy, diplomacy of the Nayaks, Tipu Sultan, French and the British Era.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


One can sail to Krishnapuram from Allepey on the ferry starting at 5.45 am, 6 am and 8 am organized by DTPC. Krishnapuram palace is alleged to be summer vacation palace of the yester Travancore kings. It must obviously have been a palace of pleasure with courtesans around. The water from the pond seeps into the palace creating an aura of pleasure for the kings to bathe after a good massage. It is a unique architectural marvel created for the nobility of the times. Krishnapuram palace can be perfectly designated as a pleasure palace of the Travancore kings for a period of 250 years.

We trekked along the highway route by visiting the Gajendra Moksha temple adjescent to the highway. The palace is just half a kilometer from the temple premise with full of greenery, which must have been a part of the palace, now filled with dwellers. An open maidan is situated outside the palace which must have been hoisting cultural events for the royalty during Onam obviously. The Palace and the temple are closed during the noon between 1 to 2 pm and closed on a week day. The visit is ticketed @ Rs 10 per head and 2 $ for foreigners. Camera fees is levied at Rs 25. One can get books related to Kerala heritage too near the entry gate. There is a guide available to explain the historical importance of the Palace. He is happy to receive whatever tip the visitor gives, one need not haggle. The interest with which he explains the tradition, architectural features, etc are quite amazing which is rare from a guide. A unique doorway built without modern hinges is beautifully demonstrated but it makes a jarring noise which might wake up a jumbo.

The proof that foreigners were entertained in the palace is provided by the pan Indian toilets specially constructed for the Dutch and the Portuguese visitors along with a durbar hall. Later the British enjoyed the hospitality of the Travancore kings. Currently the museum is converted into a full fledged museum by ASI with a well landscaped garden housing the ancient Buddha statue of the 9th century. Thus lending the right place for the ancient Buddhist statue which would have been otherwise been vandalized or smuggled abroad.

The collection of antiques from various parts of Kerala by ASI is quite substantial. Some of the artifacts of bronze statues, granite image of Vishnu, Shiva, Bramha, Goddess etc have been displayed neatly on a pedestal. Ancient Mankinds burial remains in the form of DOLMEN, Urn, Menhirs, have been displayed beautifully in the corridors of the palace.

Largest Mural painting in Kerala with eco friendly colours is sketched on the inner façade of the Krishnapuram palace. The mural depicts goddess durga devi in a somber mood surrounded by elephants and all the attendants surrounding and praying to the goddess. It is as if devotees and angels are invoking the goddess to destroy the evil demon troubling the land. The painting is known as Gajendra Moksham a mythical tradition of Kerala.

Krishnapuram palace was built during the reign of Marthanda Varma ( 1729-1758 ) Mathanda Varma demolished the crumbling palace of the Kayamkulam king ( Odanadu king ). Initially it was a small Palace which was constructed under the supervision of Ramayyan Dalava. It was extended and modified to suit the royalties prestige by Ayyappan Marthanda Pillai. Krishnapuram Palace was fashioned on the basis of Padmanabapuram Palace. Its peculiar architectural style is known as Pathinnakettu.

Heritage students and scholars would relish visiting this palace to witness the wide varieties of numismatics of various periods, Bronze statues, ancient measures, mohenjdaro models, Sanskrit bible, palanquins, massage bench, etc.

Many a eyebrows would be raised if one enquires for Krishnapuram palace, so it is better to ask for Kottaram, which means palace in Malayalam. Autorikshaws are available at Railway station to take one to the palace which is 6 kms away from Kayakulam railway junction. The palace is exactly located on the outskirts of Kayakulam town on the NH 47. A visit to the palace will take us back to the memory lane of the kerala heritage in general.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kelady, birth place of Adi Shankaracharya

Kelady is situated on the bank of river Periyar, where the great saint Adi Shankaracharya was born in 788 AD. Kelady can be reached from Angamali railway station and the international airport located nearby.

Even though it was the birth place of the great saint Adi Shankaracharya, it was neglected and almost buried into the annals of history. The importance of the town was reclaimed with the efforts of Swami Narasimha Bharti of Sringeri Mutt along with the help of the state government.

The reconstruction effort began in 1910 AD with the aid of 10 acres of land from the state govt on the right banks of the river periyar also known as Poorna, a temple dedicated to the Sharada Amba was built. Krishna temple too was constructed adjescent to Sharada temple in 1970 AD.

Local tradition believe that the river Poorna was infested with Crocs where the sage was caught by one such reptile. The sage escaped with his divine power taming the croc. The sage cremated his mother as promised by him, when she passed away near this very spot. This was marked by Shankaracharya with a small pillar, which became a holy spot for construction of the current Sharadamba temple.

Devotees from Karnataka will not feel out of place, since the priests at the temple speak fluent kannada, if one starts conversation. They help you to discover the heritage of Adi Shankara too, unfortunately there is no book or video cassette on the temple despite its historic importance.

We had a nice dharshan of the temple, in whose premises photography is prohibited, which is strange though, since it does not carry much of historical relevance or erotic sculptures are visible. The very fact that tourists snapping up would infact promote more devotees to return or visit the temple.

The main idols of Sharadamba and Shankara are built with Panchloha or admixture of five metals. The former is in hexagonal shape. The other goddesses are sculpted in granite and embedded on the façade of the temple. The six idols represent Maheswari ( west ) Kaumari ( south-west ) Vaishnavi ( north-west ) Varahi ( north ) Indrani ( north east ) and Chamundeswari ( east ).

Opp the Sharadamba temple is the newly constructed Ganapati temple with a consort. This is a rare phenomenon since Lord Ganesh is generally potrayed individually in most temples. The consort is supposed to be the bride elect for the Lord. Maybe the marriage ceremonies are held in this place in the current era. The Muktistan of Adishankara is located near to this temple where Adi Shankaracharya consigned his mothers body into flame.

The adjescent Krishna temple houses the idol of the lord which was submerged when the river Periyar changed course. This idol was re-installed when this temple was constructed on the higher bank. The temple is typical built in Kerala architecture with sloped tile work, carved wooden pillars and a shrine in the enclosure is dedicated to Lord Ayyappan.

An imposing Keerthy stamba was erected in memory of the great saint on May 12th, 1978 by his Jayendra Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Preetham Unfortunately the kanchi guru was arrested on 11th Nov 2004 Charged with conspiring to murder the temple manager Shankaraman.

The magnificient tower is nine storeyed and one can ascend with an enterance fee of Rs 2 per head. The 100 odds steps to the top is filled with lifetime episodes of sage adi shankaracharya. This structure is slightly leaning and towers 51 meters in height and 20 meters in diameter. One can easily mistake the tower to be a lighthouse at a glance, in the absence of seashore nearby. Events from the life of the guru is beautifully sculpted in colour from the time of his birth. A imposing 11 feet statue Shankaracharaya is installed on the upper most floor. Unfortunately we cannot see the landscape below from the top floor due to closure of access.

An ashram is established on the shankara jayanthi day 26th January 1936 which also contains a statue of Ramakrishna in white marble. A full fledged Gurukula, library, dispensary etc is run by the trust for the benefit of the local community. A guest house is available for devotees to stay, which can be booked with prior information. There are other govt. guest house and tourist lodges too located in Kelady town. Due to the efforts of Srigeri Mutt, Kelady has become a prosperous town from an obscure village.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tripunithara Palace

Many a times tourist to Kochi would get confusing answers if one asks about Tripunitara Palace. The best way to get around is to enquire about Tripunitara Museum which is away from the township of Tripunitara. This place is situated enroute to the famous temple of Chottinakara ( 6 km before the temple )

This palace is purported to be built on the hillock which is not very prominent in 1865 by the Kochi King Rama Varma ( 1864 – 1888 ) who completed the work begun by uncle Ravi Varma ( 1853 – 1864 ). A brief history of the Kochi kingdom would not be out of place to understand the lineage of the Kochi Kings.

According to keralamahatmyam ( 44th chapter ) King Vishravanas daughter Bala prayed to Parusurama and wished that a land should be created in her name. In keeping with her wish Lord Parusurama created a land out of the sea bed and called it Kochi. ( which later became Cochin ) There is another well known story that the last Perumal who reigned Kerala divided his kingdom among his nephews and sons and got himself converted to Islam and went to Mecca on a piligrimage. Keralopathi states “ The last famous Perumal King Cheraman Perumal ruled kerala for 36 years. He left for Mecca by ship with some muslims who arrived at Cragannore port and converted into Islam. Before leaving for Mecca he divided his kingdom among his nephews and sons “. The lineage of the Kochi kings is traced to Surya-chandra vamsha as per puranas.

During the 12th century Vanneri was the capital of the kings. Than the focus shifted to Crangnnore, present day Kodganallur since the maritime trade with the Arab world flourished. The Zamorins attacked this place and took possession forcing the kings to move towards Kochi and Tripunithara. In 1341 AD a massive flood wiped out Crangannore and the port was relocated in Kochi. It also created an isle of Vypin.

In 1555 the dutch palace at Mattancheri was built by the Portuguese and presented to the King Veera Kerala Varma ( 1537 – 1565 ) and later some extension and renovations were carried out by the Dutch in 1663 AD. The capital was shifted to Trichur for a long time. In the beginning of the 18th century Tripunithara started gaining prominence due to the constant fighting between the Zamorin, British and Portuguese. Around 1755 Thampuram family left Vellarapalli and settled in tripunithara. Thus it became the capital of the Kochi Kings and the palace was built in 1865.

The palace is housed in a terrain of 54 acres presently but in the past it must have encompassed a much larger area. The palace was taken over the by Kerala govt after independence and handed over to ASI in 1980 AD. It was converted into a museum in 1986 AD and thrown open to public. A famous Malayalam movie Manichitrathazhu was shot in this premise.

Currently the palace is under renovation ( 22/10/09 ) when we visited we found that the visit to the museum is banned due to renovation efforts. It is surprising the entire premises consisting of 3 enclosures is closed, which seems to be wrong planning. They could have closed one and left open the other two for public viewing. Further even after plenty of rainfall the landscaping was not undertaken, many of the plants looked dried up, which obviously points to the fact that proper manure or fertilizers are not being used to upkeep the gardens.

The heritage look of the palace is not present and a dull ghostly look is prevalent. There is a graveyard of Pareekshit Thamuran ( 1876- 1964 AD ) housed within the premises. Many of the buildings have not been occupied and it is strange that upkeep too has not taken place despite being under ASI for nearly 30 years. There is a heritage centre wherein the ASI office is located and a mural restoration school and conservation centre is housed in another enclosure. These areas are restricted to the public.

The palace is constructed with Mangalore tiled roof to prevent the effects of heavy rainfall. The central citadel consists of first floor with a beautifully carved wooden staircase leading to upstairs. The palace must be filled with antiques which we could not see, there was one elephant statue in wooden which was covered with plastic sheets and a wooden cot in one of the rooms.

The palace landscaping is built on three stepped enclosures with a road leading upto the palace, which seems to have been modified according to the British style. The steps leading from the enterance upto the palace is quite unique. There is a deer park behind the palace. A beautiful dinosaurs is carved in wood and installed to the left of the palace.

Enclosure near the dear park looks to be horse stable where the horses may have been housed along with a small pond located adjescent to this place. There are other places which are restricted and kept under lock and key. They may be definitely housing the antiques in view of the renovation work.

At the enterance there is another huge pond which may be harvesting the rain water for usage of common public and the staff of the palace. There are number of shade providing trees and a few flowering plants in the premises. Two water fountains in a ruinous state is found. For some time the british seems to have occupied this palace, because the fountain concept is purely a british legacy. The statue adorning the fountain seems to be some English character. There is grave yard of one of the kings within the premises.

Entrance ticket of Rs 10 per head is charged along with Rs 25 for still camera, which seems strange even when the palace museum is closed. The worst part is that a premium is charged on the books sold by the Dept of Archaeology. Normally such books should not cost beyond Rs 100 to Rs 150, considering that gods own country is expensive, it is priced at Rs 300/- and the staff add their own commission by charging Rs 50 above the MRP. It is better they streamline their act and instruct the staff not to blackmarket the books of heritage to the tourist.

Overall a visit to Tripunithara palace reveal the recent heritage almost just covering 150 years. Once the renovation is complete we might get to see its glory. Obviously photography is not allowed inside the museum. We hope to have a glimpse of the same through their books in the coming years. It gives me an impression that the royalty were a puppet king mostly under sovereignty of the Dutch, Zamorins and the British.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

KALLIL, a buddhist heritage

The clear evidence of the conversion of a Jain Heritage into Bhagwati temple is found at Kallil. The statues of the theerthankaras must have been destroyed by the vandalisers and in it s place a Hindu goddess statue has been installed. The proof of the conversion can be seen on the unfinished image of Buddha or Jain theertankara which belongs to 800 AD as per carbon dating. The location chose by the Bhikshuks was ideal for meditating, which was practiced far away from the dense human settlement. If we go by the terrain, it must have been close to some river or water source. The monks used to walk up to the water source for their daily chores of bathing and fresh up.

According to me the Buddhist figure on the rockface must have belonged to the Ashokan period, when the emperor relinquished violence to spread Dhamma. In view of large scale vandalism of the remains, one cannot conclusively prove whether this place belong to jain or buddhist heritage.

The 100 odd steps leading up to the temple seems to be laid of late, after it was declared a protected monument in 1965. Previously the steps must have been laid on the rock bed circumbulating around the rocky phase and leading upto to the temple. There is new laid out pathway currently with skid proof tiles laid out of cemented tiles. The entire area is now being converted to ensure flow of vehicles and parking slot is being designed to attract piligrims.

Behind the Bhagvathi temple we find the meditating area which is well laid out with ancient steps. The serenity of the atmosphere is quite captivating. There are some ancient statues preserved belonging to the converted segment of Bhagvathi. Animal sacrifices must have been taking place in terms of chicken etc to please the goddess, which seems to have been stopped. There is one cave like crevice which may have housed ancient mankind too, if one has time one can keep exploring the surroundings, but we were running behind schedule.

The priests family have naturally occupied the surrounding areas and thriving. We had to take permission to photograph the Buddha image on the rock face, which they reluctantly gave us, since it was the evidence of conversion.

Crude form of conversion of Jain places of worship will be dealt with elsewhere, which will reveal an indirect method adopted to take over the premises. I am wondering why the Hindus followed this coercive method, particularly when Jainism and Buddhism could almost be considered to part of Hinduism. Is it the brahmanical hatred against the dalits which compelled them to undertake such coercive methods or is it the easy way out to transform the Buddhist or Jainism place into Hindu place of worship. This phenomenon is most found in Kerala region, where even today the conservative practice of removing the shirt before entering the temple premise is followed. Rest of the areas have discarded this practice. Some temples I did not enter as a mark of protest, even though being a hindu, I preferred to prostrate outside the temple premises, maybe it would keep the priests happy.

LOCATION : Enroute to Munnar from Keladi to Kallil can be covered from Ernakulam or Angamally in kerala. It is approximately 4 kms detour from Oddakali which is 15 km away from Perambavoor. There is one more route via Kottapadi and one can exit towards Oddakali and join the main route to Munnar. The approach road to the temple is incomplete, which one has to trek almost a km to reach the destination.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


What makes Munnar that extra special to be called the Rich mans paradise or Ooty ? Is it because of clean, landscaped and unpolluted tea gardens, confluence of three rivers or the much hyped tourism. The credit for discovering the Munnar hilly ranges embedded in the western ghats goes to a British adventurer Mr John Daniel Manro and local tribal chief Kannan Thevar. Both of them discovered that the western ghats surrounding Munnar was ideally suited for plantation crops like cardamom, coffee, tea and zinchona. In honour of the tribal chief the plantations were branded as Kannan Devan Tea company and the terrain Kannan devan hills.

The plantation were bought by Tata finlay company which was later converted in to Kannan devan hill producers company. The company has the sole right from 1983 onwards. Some of the tea estates are also owned by Harrison Malayalam Ltd. Kannan Devan completely took charge of infrastructure development in Munnar by laying roads, shopping complexes, bridges etc. Migrant labours were deployed from neighbouring state to man the tea gardens and involve in cultivation of crop.


This National Park is one of the beautiful scenic drive past Mattupatty Swiss cattle project area, which has been disbanded 8 years ago due Mad Cow disease. The landscape is filled with streams, tea gardens and other plantations. The national park entrance is ticketed with well organized network of buses which takes 25 minutes drive into the ghat road leading to Anamudi hillock which is supposed to highest mountain with a peak height stretching upto 8841 feet.

The bus takes us towards the midpoint, from where one has to trek almost 2 kms to reach the end point. The mountain goats roam freely the terrain. They are known as Niligiri Thar which is known to climb the rocky surface with ease. These goats are declared endangered species in the world, which is supposed to number 2000 and out of which 50% is located in these hillocks. We were able to spot one such goat sitting like a prince viewing the mountain ranges without any worry to hurry back home.

Walking across the mountain range is so well devised in terms of road, that one does not feel the ascent at all. If one enjoys the trekking he will be gasping for more, unfortunately the road beyond the same is prohibited due to entry into forest range. There are lot of goods vehicle plying between the ranges transporting tea leaves harvested, log of woods slaughtered, and with laborers. We were enjoying the trek looking at our co-passengers just trudging for sake of completing the trip. The photo shoot ops are in plenty, but one can obtain most of the time dull pictures due to cloud cover. There may be just a fraction of seconds when the weather clears with bright sunlight, it is intermittent bouts of cloud cover all the time.

During rainy season water falls may be witnessed all around. One water falls is majestic which we get to witness while traveling towards the Rajmalai hillock. The water is pristine state, one can enjoy the drink without any fear of pollution. I just managed to gulp one or two glass equivalent water from the pipe installed for the purpose of drinking. It tasted sweetest and better than mineral water we were consuming all the while. They say best things in life are free, it was understatement for the purest form of water. I hope it acts as a curative for all my health problems.

Once in 12 years the entire range is carpeted with Neelakurinji, which is a rare breed of flowers, which possess medicinal properties too. Rajamalai is the most important destination which should not be missed in Munnar. With special permission from the warden one can trek upto 3 or 4 km inside the park.

There is a small museum with ticket, displaying the various types of birds flocking and animals roaming the hillock. Due to extreme climatic conditions with lashing windy conditions, heavy rainfall and freezing cold very few birds are seen around. Some of the species are Malabar whistling thrush, Indian Kestrel, Black Bulbul, Winged Kite, Emerald Dove, Nilgiri Pilpit & Wooden pigeon. The wild animals roaming inside the forest terrain are wild cats such as tigers and leopards. Asiatic elephants roam around the hilly ranges particularly near the lake bed around echo point and its surroundings. Wild dogs, boars, sambar, deer etc thrive in these forest range. A rare wild leopard with grey coated skin too has been spotted by the park authorities. However in view of the safety zone with wide vision it is safe for us to roam around, with a rare danger of being poached upon by the wild animals. There are guards stationed all round the walking stretch of the National park. If one gets to spot the Niligiri thar goats roaming across the road, one should be lucky. Just check out the heading of this blog, which displays the majestic picture of the lone Niligiri Thar posing as it were for the camera. Langur and Malabar squirrel too dot the trees in the hilly ranges.

One gets the feel that one is breathing the purest form of oxygen without any pollution at these heights on the Western ghats. If only we had more time we would have returned next day morning to enjoy some more trekking but alas we had to reluctantly walk back to the boarding point of the Park bus. We had to cover enroute all the other major points.


This park is located near the tunnel face of the Pallivasal Hydro Electric Park, which is an nice location which is often avoided by tour operators. This park contains rare varieties of plants and flowers, trees, facility for boating and cycling for kids, along with roller skating etc. The enterance fee of Rs 10 is levied for visitors along with separate ticket for boating, skating and badminton.

POTHAMEDU VIEW : This place is inhabited mainly by estate workers. One can view the Idukki arch dam if the weather conditions are clear. The dam is located almost 60 kms away.

Tea Museum : This museum represents the history of tea plantation in kerala. This museum is established by Tata Tea company who is a major player in the industry. The photographs of old machineries and insight into development of Munnar into a hill station. There is a sundial at the enterance of Munnar. Time can be calculated with help of the sundial fixed on a block of granite. A burial urn is displayed and on show is the ancient rail engine which used to run between Munnar and top station. An enterance fee of Rs 50 is levied to witness the museum.

INDO SWISS PROJECT : There is restricted timing to visit this spot. There are various seasonal flowers such as dahlias, seenias, which are appealing. The farm and its premises are open to the public between 9 to 11 am and 2 to 3.30 pm on purchase of ticket. Earlier a diary farm used to be in vogue, but discontinued due to mad cow disease.

ECHO POINT : The scenic spot with a lake and thick vegetation is pleasant treat to the eyes. Sunset would a rare and beautiful sight if the weather is clear, we just had glimpses of the same, but weather can turn around very fast due to moving clouds. One can hear the echo of a screaming person very clearly, which can be heard on the video shot by me. There is a dam nearby to echo point which is not well maintained. Despite appeal to the tourist, people tend to throw thrash into the lake bed which is saddest part of the entire trip.

This dam is supposed to be Asia’s largest arch dam, which is located 7 km away from Echo Point. The dam is located amidst the jungle with a serene atmosphere. The KSEB has arranged for boating facilities around the dam, which may bring some scare to people who have been affected by Thekkady tragedy recently.

Golf Course :
One golf course is under-construction near the international airport, and this seems to be second one which is 8 km away from Gundala Dam. The british used to play golf on this ground during their vacationeering. The golf club still exists signifying the british legacy.

Top Station : This is the highest point on the kerala-TN border. This is located 10 km away from Gundala Dam. One can see the distant hill ranges and misty peaks from this place. In earlier times Kannan devan tea was transported using a ropeway to Munnar. The old ropeway is now used as factory godown by the company. There is a connecting route from this place to Kodaikkanal which is through dense forest, and 61 kms away. The road is quite treacherous and hazardous with steep curves, and this point is being covered by special 4 wheeled jeeps for adventure lovers. The trip can cost upto Rs 1000/- for a couple for a distance of approx 35 kms.

Naimakkad Waterfalls :
This fall is located near the Rajamala junction. After the rainy season the fall is very active amidst the dense forest. During sunny days a thin stream is visible, sometimes Rainbow too is observed.

MARAYOOR This place is located on the outskirts of the Munnar boundary. It is almost 42 kms drive from Munnar leading to Udumalpet and which in turn takes one to Parambikulam National park passing through TN. This place is blessed with natural sandal wood forest. The sandal wood quality is of the highest grade in terms of aroma. There is a children park which is under the forest department. A sandalwood processing centre too is available here, where one can witness the various process.

MUNIYARA : Besides the Marayoor high school a number of caves can be seen among the rocky terrain. These caves are made of huge rocky planks or slabs. The antecedents of the cave is mired in mystery. Ancient tribals seem to have occupied the place. Some believe sages used to meditate and therefore it is considered holy caves. In Kovilkadvu on the banks of Pambar there is temple in a cave. This temple has been carved out of single monolithic rock. There are some inscriptions embedded on the rock which is quite ancient. It gives an idea that the cave may be originally belonging to the Jaina heritage.

DTPC The district tourism promotion council office is located on the entry point to Munnar. One can book sight seeing package @ Rs 250 per day, which is a conducted tour. Further guidance regarding accomodation could be had from this office. Dont go by district road maps unless it is detailed map of the district which will reveal the terrain. If one is planning for Perambikulam than it is first of all a long distance, and secondly if it is a taxi one needs to have a permit. We made the mistake of going by the road map, it is helpful in case one is travelling with their own vehicle. The other places which are worth visiting in Munnar are Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary, Amravathi ( TN ) Devikulam Lake ( 3 Km ) Gap Road view point, Kolukkumalai where only Jeep safari is possible, Valara Water falls enroute.

Ideally one should book their accomodation in advance and proceed to Munnar early morning, the sight seeing trips are conducted from 9 am otherwise too when one is spending by hiring a cab it is better to start early and not halt in between except for tea and water falls break. Please check out on the route taken, one can be take for a royal ride with longer routes in case of hired taxi totalling to 70 km, which we were victim of. The shortest route is through Tripunitara and Aluva is longer route from Kochi. Tourism in kerala needs to monitored for its transperancy, there is unionised Taxi fares, Hotel tariffs and Guide charges, so one will be lucky to get a good bargain. Whether you know someone or the other it will not make a difference, but maybe a top govt official can help out in getting cheaper accomodation in PWD guest houses. One has to be prepared to shell out a premium if one is travelling to Munnar, Idduki or Thekaddy.

Palghat Fort Legacy

A group of wise men gathered at Palghat gap plateau some 5000 years ago to decide on the problem of ever increasing graveyards in the settlement. The solution to the problem was arrived in a simple manner to cosign the dead body into flames along with elaborate rituals and thereby reducing the need for burial space in the human settlement. Thus the practice too avoided the close kith and kin being in a mourning stage for a prolonged period. The next logical step was to foster the spirit of inter-dependence among people. This obviously lead to the caste system based on the profession chosen among the forerunners. The distinct segment was hunting, collection of forest produce, priestly class, trading community, fishermen, weaving class, etc.

How the hell did I arrive at such an absurd conclusion ? which may sound blasphemy to some skeptics. The research based on Allen’s summation “ unranked socio political relationship are most likely to have characterized far upstream and maritime ends of the network…………………………exchange with forest dwellers was almost certainly reciprocal. Forest produce were most eagerly sought after by foreign traders, but were available in widely separated patches that had to be exploited by people with intimate knowledge of forest terrain ( which is often laid with perils of wild animals, poisonous snakes etc ) This paved way to formation of inter-dependence of human Endeavour fostering barter system and later backed by coinage means of exchange. This was a loose form of federal structure probably where tight vertical control would have been impossible to sustain.Cera or Keralaputra came under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya ( 340 – 290 BC ) with his expansion policy in 300 BC. When the mauryan emperor abdicated the throne in favour of his son Bindusara in 298 BC, he settled in Shravanbelagola and spread the message of Jainism across south India. Karnataka and kerala was the focus of his attention to spread the gospel of the theerthankaras and his guru. His grandson Ashoka the great ( 304 – 232 BC ) adopted Buddhism after the Kalinga war ( 265 BC). He started spreading gospel of Buddha with Ahimsa. How the emperor Ashoka got indoctrinated into Buddhism is another interesting storyline.

In one of his edicts Ashoka states across the mauryan empire I have planted banyan trees for providing shade to men and animals alike. In a distance of eight kosas I have commissioned wells, rest houses and other infrastructure for travelers, piligrims, traders and for the army too. These infrastructural developments have been undertake by other kings of the time too, but not with an intention of spreading Dhamma. My aim is to ensure that people are contented enough to practice the gospel of Buddha. The traces of the ancient trees are found on the highways of Kerala. The remains of Buddhist artifacts point to presence of their domination till the Shaiva sects overtook their domain.

The domain of Vijaynagar empire obviously included the Kerala territory for their rich revenue base in trading. Spices, Sandalwood, Teak and ayurvedic formulations formed the mainstay of trading with the Arabian and European region. Palaghat Gap seems to have been identified as the main stay for a trading centre. The traces of the empire was in the form of building temple. A prominent temple was obviously constructed in the premises of the present Palghat fort along with a bazaar established for trading in front of the temple. This temple was in existence probably till 1766, when Hyder Ali invaded the territory and unleashed a reign of terror. He demolished the temple and modified into a Fortress. The signs of the temple is clearly evident from statues of Ganesha embedded into the wall of the fortress and the gateways and their pillars used for construction of inner citadel. Tipu carried out his own agenda based from this fortress till he occupied the throne at Srirangapatna. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan in 1790 the fortress was temporarily occupied by the Zamorins of Calicut who seemed to have further fortified.


The antecedents of the Palghat fort have not being revealed to the world for sake of maintaining the communal harmony is quite understandable. However the fact and traces of the hindu temple and Kalyana mantap now being converted into a museum courtesy ASI is evidence enough for keen observers. Some historians point towards a jain temple too being present in the temple complex which may have crumbled. A proper carbon dating of the pillars would reveal this fact too. The British have modified the Kalyan mantap into a cosy residential house for one of their generals. The pillars of the mantap have been used to construct the residential quarters, which have subsequently modified into a museum by ASI after it took charge of the Fort in 1925 AD. The main building houses a prison for petty crimes.

The fort is built across an area of around 50 acres with a Rhombus plan covering all angles. There are 8 strategic watch towers, surrounded by a moat filled with water. The land around the fort is beautifully landscaped with greenish turf and plants. There is private garden too which is ticketed. It is well endowed with variety of flora.

One hanuman temple is located near the citadel of the fort with an ugly contraption of corrugated sheet protecting the premises against rain and shine. Probably protecting the heritage of vanquished Vijaynagar emperors. The developments may be treated by historians as encroachment but the fact remains that an ancient temple edifice has been modified by the rulers of the time, to suit their strategic interests. The political pressure to maintain status quo has prevented eviction of the temple priest and their family, probably protecting their livelihood more than heritage.

The fort itself is a beautiful bastion constructed with granite stones which could probably withstand the cannon firing from the enemies. The crocodile infested moats have been designed to protect the fort being besieged from all sides. The inner fortress may have been designed to hold around 1000 soldiers, and the outer area would have housed around 20,000 soldiers living in tents and temporary structures for ready movement of troops.

A palace for the kings seems to have been converted into the present day jail. The harems of the queens seems to have crumbled due to lack of maintenance. If one can stretch their imagination there must have been plenty of spicy foods cooked in the premises and abundance of romantic interludes from the time of Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, Zamorin and the British.

In all probability the French architects were involved in renovation of the Palghat fort like the Forts in Bellary and Sandur. The positioning of the cannon grooves is well executed and planned by the architects taking the safety factor into consideration. There is a well close to the outer edge of the fort wall for drinking water catering to needs of the soldiers.

Overall the Fort symbolizes the defense strategies of medieval times, combined with ancient trade routes formed by Palghat Gap which was the entry point from Eastern to Western coast. The Tamilakam region obviously gave birth to a separate culture which influenced the kerala coast to a large extent. The destruction of the most important trading centre Kodaganallur during 1341 floods paved way for diversion to Kochi harbour, along with Kozhikode port. The visit to Palghat fort does not tax once pocket because there is no enterance fee levied by ASI, which is heartening. One can spend upto 2 hours comfortably closely observing various facets of the Fort, the inner ramparts and outer garden area along the boundary of the moat.

Palghat fort is located bang in the centre of the city. It can be reached by air through Coimbatore, Calicut and Angamalli airport. By train one can reach Palghat from Chennai, Bangalore, Mangalore and Trivandrum which is covering all the four corridors.