Dont miss to visit Kerala – Gods own county
The most common reason to visit India is the Monument of love – The Taj Mahal, Agra. Palaces of Rajasthan, the heritage and the remains of the royal life which existed centuries back. Apart from that not many people go that extra mile to explore down south and visit Kerala, which is much more diverse, green, historically important, rich in pristine nature and it beings.
To know why Kerala is described as “Gods Own County” is a task to experience. For God has blessed this narrow strip of land abundantly with lot of beauty, rivers, backwaters, high ranges, beaches, culture, art and heritage. Kerala offers combination of multiple elements to sooth you senses and rejuvenate your Body, Soul and Mind.
1. The backwaters, lagoons and Canals
Backwaters are a phenomenon seen in many part of the world. What makes the Kerala backwaters different from others is the backwater culture and the people associated with the water world. This is a backwater culture and lifestyle, the canals and lagoons becomes water highways, with floating shops aside, and not to miss pearl spots. The backwaters are spread across hundreds of square kilometers parallel to the Arabian Sea and are almost seen in every coastal district of Kerala.
The Western Ghats is the mighty high ranges which are spread across the state. The Nilgiri Biosphere comes within the Western Ghats. As the crow flies, Less than a hundred kilometers from the seashore is the Western Ghats. Idukki, Wayanad are some the renowned green spots with its rivers, waterfalls, variety of species of birds, flora and fauna. The high ranges are hub of spice plantations and tea plantations.
3. The beaches
The long coastline of Kerala gives way to some of the best beaches in the world. A few to name are Varkala, Marari, Kannur beaches, Bekal, Nattika and Kovalam. Varkala and kovalam are beaches where surfing is possible. Every year before the winter – by October, an English couple runs a surfing guide and training program in Varkala. Almost every beach have Fishermen villages close by, early in the morning, you can see them come back with their catch which is auctioned then and then. Sea food is a specialty in most beach destinations.
4. Art and Culture
People of Kerala appreciate art and thus culturally art is very much associated with the people of the state. Kathakali the drama based theater performance, difference dance forms like Mohinattam, Chkyarkooth – the comedy satire, are all from Kerala. The Kalamandalam in Cheruthuruthy (in Trissur District) is the school where most artisans learn and practice art, music and instruments, dance and other Theater performances.
It was the spices from Kerala, attracted Vasco Da Gama – the navigator to set his sail to Kerala the second time. He mentioned Pepper as Black Gold. Kerala traded spices around the world from the days of Muziris Port. Pepper was used for Mummifying in Egypt and used for its medicinal value in the Kingdom of Solomon. Even today, there is huge demand for the spices from the Malabar or Kerala high ranges. Malabar Gold is a brand of Pepper from Kerala is still used in the Buckingham palace. Wayanad and Kumily, are some of the centers of Spice plantations.
A medical practice based on medicines and oils extracted from plants and trees. Ayurveda is a science of medicine which directs a holistic way of living with it treatment procedure through physical massages. There are many Ayurveda hospitals in Kerala which cater to people who come with specific treatment requirements, to name a few – Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Shala and Nagarjuna Ayurveda hospitals. Others include Ayurveda rejuvenation resorts mostly centered at beach destinations where people experience holistic packages which lead to transformed lifestyles with yoga and Ayurveda resulting to better health and living. These packages are mostly detoxification packages.
7. Festivals and traditions
India is known for her festivals and Kerala is no exception. The state is vibrant during festive seasons and the festivals are always grand in nature, whether small or big. Most festivals are based on myths, beliefs and temples. Trissur, the cultural capital of Kerala is host to some of the most exciting festivals in Kerala. Caparisoned elephants, Chenda Melams and Pancharimelams (orchestral form of percussion instruments), colorful installations are all part of a grand Keralan Festival. Onam is the state festival which is about welcoming Mahabali, the most celebrated mythological King who once ruled the state. Onam is celebrated irrespective of religion, cast or sect is a 10 day long celebration. Google the festival calendar to know if festival is held during your visit.
8. Forest and Wildlife
The Western Ghats is home to rich forest wealth and wildlife. Tigers and elephants are there in most forest. Some of the forest reserves are in the periyar tiger reserve (Thekkady), Parambikulam tiger reserve (Palakkad), Muthanga wildlife sanctuary (Wayanad). The forest wealth extends all over the Western Ghats, except in Munnar which was destroyed and replaced with tea plantations a century ago during the British India era.
The Homestay concept was introduced in Kerala much before Airbnb or couchsurfing was born. The concept is about a family hosts stay at their home for the guest to know more closely about the destination like a guide. It is about the people, its traditions and practices. Almost all Homestays are on full board basis. There are more than a 50 certified Homestays in Kerala. Homestays generally create memorable experiences for guests. Always make sure that you go to a certified Homestay and not to someone who has just built a few rooms to rent.
The cuisines of Kerala are very much religion and geography based. Say for example, there are traditional vegetarian sadyas on banana leaf, the central Travancore Syrian Christian cuisine, the Malabar Mapilla cuisine. All are of different cooking styles, different ingredients and tastes with a single common factor – Spices. The Sadhya with more than 15 accompaniments is common everywhere in the state and is an integral part of the Onam celebration across the state. The central Travancore Syrian Christian cuisines are mostly based in south Kerala and the Mappila cuisine is towards North Kerala where there is a higher Muslim population.
Elephant is the state animal of Kerala, and to spot one during your visit is no difficult task. Elephants are an unavoidable part of most festivals. There are many domesticated elephants in many parts of Kerala. They are very common in Thekkady and other tourist destinations, the boat ride in lake Periyar gives you a chance to spot herd of Elephants that come to the reservoir to drink water. The Jeep safari in Muthanga, Wayanad is another sighting experience. There are a few Elephant training center, mainly the Guruvayoor Annathavalam, Kodanad and Konni elephant training center.
The concept of houses on water bodies is no new concept, but the way the houseboats evolved in Kerala backwaters is a slow story to be told. In olden days “Kettvallams” barges with huge hulls were used to transport cargo from the villages to the markets in Kochi and Alleppey. As time went by, roads were built and trucks replaced these barges. It was in the late 1970s when a group of young men erected a house with local materials atop the barge and started renting it to the tourists bound to Kerala. From then on as years passed the boats became bigger with more bedrooms. Today there are even luxury houseboats which have the facilities of a modern hotel. There are more than 1000 houseboats in the backwaters. Do your researches well, depend only on authorized boat operators; walking inn for houseboats is not suggested.
Suggested ones would be – The raxacollective and lakes and lagoon houseboats.
When I say religion, I mean to the say the history of religion in Kerala. Kerala is entry point to two world religions. Islam and Christianity were introduced during the era of the Muziris port city (1 AD) (30 Kilometers North of Kochi) which had big time maritime trade relations with the west and China. It is believed that St. Thomas landed in Muziris after the resurrection of Christ. It was through Muslim traders that Islam was introduced to Kerala and the King named Cheraman Perumal Embraced Islam and set sail to Mecca to meet the Nabi. Going behind these trails would be an excitement for people who are interested in history, people and religion.
14. Snake boat races
Snake boats are referred to the long thin boats which were once navy boats of the local kingdoms. More than hundred men could board a boat and all of them would be rowing to attain maximum speed. There are traditions and stories behind each race, today these boats are material for race events. There are more than 15 snake boat races, most of them associated with Onam, the state festival of Kerala. The Nehru trophy boat race, the Aranmula snake boat race (more than a race – it is a tradition) Payyippad snake boat race are a few to name. Google the festival calendar to know if some race is there during your visit.
What more reasons do you want? come on make up your mind, pack your bags!
Written by Benjamin John