Alleppey commonly known as Alappuzha, has several by lanes that slide off the main streets and contain tiny row houses divided by low walls over which much gossiping is done.These limpid green backwaters remain an integral part of Kerala life, they originate as tumultuous foamy rivers in the high ranges, then cascade down valleys, and slopes, past plantations of tea coffee, rubber and spices, crossing fields of sugarcane and tapioca, and finally settle down as placid lagoons and backwaters; never far from the sea, and forming an inland waterway about 1920 kilometers in length!As you pass the row houses, many glorious splashes of scarlet and jade colours catch your eye. These are the very intricate designs and shapes of coir mats and carpets.
The pride of Alleppy!Morning dawns……the atmosphere fresh and vibrant…….The birds hum away their morning jitters……and the golden colour of the sunrise sets through to your windows.Coconut palms trail their branches gently on the thatched roofs made of elephant grass. Temple bells ring, and the splash in the backwaters as enthusiastic bathers jump in. Oh! The thrill of Alleppy has come!And now you gaze before you, is the most intricate maze of Backwaters, Canals and Bridges, hailed as the Venice of the East.
For centuries before, many colourful stories have been carefully yarned around these backwaters, of times gone by, when merchant ships trod these waters carrying cargoes of ivory, gold and spices to the trading outposts of Kozhikode, Kollam, Kannur, and Alappuzha. Many of these ships were plundered and terrorized by bold and ruthless Pirates!Today, the boatmen translate these stories to a keen alert audience, as the waters hear and ripple in the remembrance.
Ambalappuzha (Pilgrim Centre)
Lord Krishna is a divine God, who is worshipped across the world. One of his temples has been created centuries ago in a place called Amabalappuzha. The Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalapuzha, 14 kms from Alleppey is among Kerala's more famous ones boasting of the artistic temple architectural style of the state. Paintings of the Dasavatharam (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) are on display on the inner walls of the Chuttambalam
The temple's main festival occurs in March/April. It was in this temple that the 16th century poet Kunjan Nambiar staged his first Ottan Thullal, a solo dance performance with high social content.
It is equally famed for its palpayasam – a sweet-milk porridge offered to the deity. The fascinating story of why the palpayasam porridge is being served every day till today, is quite marvellous.
The story behind the palpayasam:
As legendary story has it, God Krishna once appeared in the form of a Simple Sage in the court of the king who ruled the region and challenged him for a game of chess. The king being a chess enthusiast himself gladly accepted the invitation. However, the prize had to be decided before the game and the king asked the sage to choose his prize in case he won.
The sage told the king that he had a very modest claim and being a man of few material needs, all he wished was a few grains of rice. The amount of rice itself shall be determined using the chess-board in the following manner. One grain of rice shall be placed in the first square, two grains in the second square, four in the third square, eight in the fourth square, sixteen in 5th square and so on. Every square will have double of its predecessor.
Upon hearing the demand, the king was unhappy since the sage requested only a few grains of rice instead of other riches from the kingdom which the king would have been happy to donate. He requested the sage to add other items to his prize but the sage declined.
The game of chess started and needless to say the king lost the game. It was time to pay the sage his agreed-upon prize.
As he started adding grains of rice to the chess board, the king soon realised the true nature of the sage's demands. By the 20th square, the number had reached one million grains of rice and by the 40th square, it became one million million.
The royal granary soon ran out of grains of rice. The king realised that even if he provides all the rice in his kingdom and his adjacent kingdoms, he will never be able to fulfill the promised reward. The number of grains was increasing as a geometric progression and the total amount of rice required to fill a 64-squared chess board is ((2^64) - 1) which is equal to the number 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 translating to trillions of tons of rice.
Upon seeing the dilemma, the sage appeared to the king in his true-form, that of God Krishna. He told the King that he did not have to pay the debt immediately but could pay him over a period of time.
The deal was made, thereafter the king would serve paal-payasam (made of rice) in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt was paid off.
Lord Buddha is also quite famous in Kerala. A black granite figure of Buddha said to belong to the 9th or 10th century dwells close to the Ambalappuzha, in the village of Karumadi which is famous for its Karumadi Kuttan, Lord Buddha.
As History is the legend of our country. The 18th century Krishnapuram Palace was built during the reign of the infamous Travancore Monarch, Marthanda Varma. It houses one of the largest mural paintings in Kerala called the Gajendra Moksham.
The Palace is a double storied structure which displays exquisite characteristics of Kerala architecture-gabled roofs, dormar windows, and narrow corridors. It measures a colossal height of 14 feet by 11 feet and is at the western end of the ground floor, a mere walking distance from the Palace Pool. Inside is also a substantial museum of antique sculptures, paintings and bronzes.
This reminiscent palace is situated 47 kms from Alappuzha on the way to Kollam, Krishnapuram and is cool short journey by bus from either town.
Pathiramanal (An Island)
Pathiramanal which means “Sands of Night”, is a humble beautiful island in the Vembanad Lake and is accessible only by boat from Kumarakom and Muhamma.
There are large species of magnificent migratory birds travelling from all parts of the world to this serene island, plus a further 91 local species too. It is a truly bird lovers paradise.
The flora that is found here, is tremendously exquisite for its rare plants which have medicinal value too.
The best part of this island, is that it has not been made commercialized, therefore you can see it with its natural scenic beauty.
Kuttanad, is called the “Rice Bowl of Kerala” because of its wealth of paddy crops.
It lies at the very heart of the backwaters. The scenic countryside of Kuttanad with its shimmering waterways also has a rich crop of banana, cassava and yam.
This perhaps is the only region where farming is done 1.5 to 2 ms. below sea level. Inland waterways which flow above land level are an amazing feature of this region.
This is one of the most popular picnic spots in Alappuzha for international and national tourists.
The grand pier, which extends into the sea, is over 137 years old.
Entertainment facilities, such as children’s park, boating, toy train rides, and cycling at the Vijaya Beach Park adds to the attractions of the beach.
There is also an old lighthouse which is a great fascination to visitors.
22 kms. north of Alappuzha, the St. Sebastian's Church is an important Christian pilgrim centre. The annual festival, known as Arthunkal Perunnal is the feast of the patron saint.
The village is synonymous for its church, which has the Roman martyr Saint Sebastian as its patron. The feast of St. Sebastian in Arthunkal is a grand celebration extending for two weeks in January.
While the main day of the traditional feast or perunnal is on January 20, the church authorities have instituted another on January 27, ending day of celebrations, locally referred to as Ettamperunnal or 'the 8th day or the feast'.
Devotees from all across the state visit the church on the feast days. A procession, carrying the graceful statue of St. Sebastian, from the church to the beach and back, is the most important event of the feast. Interestingly, an eagle is seen roaming the skies, every year during the time of the procession. This eagle too has become part of the grandmother stories, about the presence of St. Sebastian as a guardian saint for the village.
Situated 24 kms. away from Alappuzha, on the Alappuzha - Thiruvalla Road. Established in 1810, 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. During the annual feast pilgrims from all parts of South India, irrespective of caste and creed, visit the church and seek the blessings of the saint.
The annual feast starts on 27 April with the hoisting of the flag and concludes on 7 May. During the feast, the statue of St. George, decked in gold regalia, is carried out and placed on the dais at the center of the basilica.
St George is known as Geevarghese Punyavalan among Nasrani, St Thomas Christians of Kerela (also known as Syrian Christians because they used a Syrian dialect of Hebrew, instead of the Latin used by some western Christians, in special church prayers).
A mystery of how St George came to be known as Geevarghese and also became one of the most popular saints among the Syrian Christians of Kerala is still a topic of interest for researchers to investigate adequately.