|To label Alappuzha (The Malayalam name for
Alleppey) The 'Venice of the East' might today appear a far-etched cliche of travelogue writers, but this quaint little town is certainly the Venice of India. Nowhere else will you find, spread out across the center of town, a unique crisscrossing network of canals on which thatch covered country boats punt along leisurely. The proximity of lakes adds to the Venetian ambience. For tourists Alappuzha is the pivotal point for trips into Kerala's famed backwaters and the state's lush rice bowl, Kuttanad, Between
Kollam to the south and Kottayam to the east lie some of the most entrancing scenery of palm-lined banks, quiet water-bound villages and little boats taking the local people to and fro-everything framed in green. A singular characteristic of this land is the region called Kuttanad.
The rice bowl of Kerala. Kuttanad is perhaps the only place in the world where farming is done below sea level. Apart from the boat trips through the town's many canals and lakes, and the Mullackal Bhagavathi Temple in the heart of town, Alappuzha offers glimpses of the coir manufacturing process-from the coconut husk tot the final rope/coir yarn stage. There are also several shops selling coir matting and carpets, often at prices cheaper than elsewhere. The long sandy beach at Alappuzha has a lighthouse and a pier jutting out into the sea, once active in the unloading of goods from ships calling at
Alappuzha. Children can romp in the Vijay Beach Park.
The not-to-be-missed spectacle in Alappuzha is, of course, the
Nehru Trophy Boat Race which began in 1952 on the occasion of the visit of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to Alappuzha, It is now a major event held on the second Saturday of every August and features the gigantic snake-boats of Kerala, the chundans, once the battleships of the Malayalee kings of yore. Today the Boat Race has grown into Alappuzha's single most important tourist event, with each boat being sponsored by a different village. Competition is severe as the boats, with over 100 rowers in each, race to the finish to the accompaniment of rousing music.
Places to Visit
Kuttanad is called as the rice bowl of Kerala, because for her wealth of paddy crops are at the very heart of the backwaters. The scenic countryside of Kuttanad with its shimmering waterways also has a rich crop of bananas, casava and yams, which accompany the rice bowl as "side dishes". This is perhaps the only land in the world where farming is done below sea level. Inland waterways which flow above land level are an amazing feature of this unique land.
The St. Sebastian's Church here is an important Christian pilgrim
centre. Annual festival Arthunkal Perunnal - the feast of the patron saint (January).
The Sree Krishna Temple here, built in the typical Kerala architectural style, is famous all over Kerala for "Palpayasam", the daily offering of deliciously sweet milk porridge, which tastes like rice pudding. It is also in this temple that pallipana is performed by Velans (sorcerers) one in twelve years Human sacrifice was conducted in ancient times. However cocks have now replaced humans on the sacrificial altar.
Situated near Harippad, is is a serpent shrine under the patronage of a Brahmin family, headed by a priestess. Legend has it that the first priestess of Mannarasala gave birth to a five headed snake, which is believed to reside in the ancestral houses to safeguard the family. At Mannarasala barren women are believed to be blessed with children, and a special turmeric paste available at the shrine is credited with powers to cure even leprosy.
Kuttanad, called the rice bowl of Kerala because of her wealth of paddy crops, is at the very heart of the backwaters. The scenic countryside of Kuttanad with its shimmering waterways also has a rich crop of banana, cassva and yam. This is perhaps the only region in the world where farming is done 1.5 to 2 m below sea level.
This is one of the most popular picnic spots in Alappuzha. The pier, which extends into the sea here, is over 137 years old. Entertainment facilities at the Vijaya beach park add to the attractions of the beech. There is also an old lighthouse which is greatly fascinating to visitors.
According to mythology a young brahmin dived into the Vembanad Lake to perform his evening ablutions and the water made away for land to rise from below, thus creating the enchanting island of Pathiramanal. This little island on the backwaters is a favourite haunt of
hundreds of rare migratory birds from different parts of the world. The island lies between Thaneermukkom and Kumarakom, and is accessible only by boat.
The church is dedicated to St. George. It is believed that prayers and offerings at this church help to heal all mental disorders and other ailments.
Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple - Mavelikkara:
The Kettukazhcha festival at this temple draws large crowds of devotees. Processions of tall decorated structures on chriots, brightly decorated effigies of horses and bullocks and cultural performances make a spectacular
Built by Marthanda Varma, this palace at Karthikapally in Kayamkulam is famous for its mural depicting the story of Gajendramoksham. The palace museum houses antique sculptures, painting and bronzes.