Trails of God’s Own Country: Kerala.
Whatever one chooses, the experience of getting a peek at typical village life in Kerala—women washing clothes, children playing, people boarding a small ferry to go to the town for work—and taking in marvellous spectacles of flocks of birds over the water while sipping on coconut water (which you can buy from a boatman), is unbeatable. Little wonder Alleppey is often called ‘Venice of the Eas
Kerala is naturally blessed with a number of waterfalls, of which Athirappally in Thrissur district is the most popular. Nicknamed ‘Niagara of the East,’ Athirappally plunges 80 feet and watching it gush down while frothy white clouds of spray rise is surreal. The vista is particularly arresting at dusk— the water looks like an unravelling ribbon of white satin, disappearing into the distance. About five kilometres from Athirappally is another waterfall, Vazhachal, which is also very popular.
The Annamalai Temple in Karikodu, Idukki, is 1,800 years old. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and built in the traditional Chola style of architecture, the temple is made of stone while the idols are made of stone and metal. Of particular attraction is a window with nine lattices that point to the nine planets or Navagrahas. There is another window with five lattices, signifying the five elements. The temple is in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and some of its main relics are kept in museums in Thrissur and Calicut.
Cheraman Juma Masjid
The Cheraman Juma Masjid is the first mosque in India, built in AD 629. It is also the second in the world where Juma prayers (special Friday prayers) were started. Located two kilometres from Kodungallur town in Thrissur district, people of all faiths visit the Cheraman Juma Masjid, and offer oil for a lamp—believed to be more than 1,000 years old—that burns inside.
The Mattancherry Synagogue in Fort Kochi was constructed in 1568 and is a beautiful piece of architecture that makes you linger. It’s the oldest of its kind in the Commonwealth and was destroyed during a Portuguese raid in 1662, but was rebuilt two years later by the Dutch. This 18thcentury synagogue, which looks quite simple from the outside with just a clock tower, is exquisite on the inside. It is hand-painted and its willow-patterned floor tiles are from Canton, China. Do look out for the stone slabs with inscriptions in Hebrew, great scrolls of the Old Testament, and ancient scripts on copper plates in which grants of privilege made by the erstwhile Cochin rulers were recorded. The area around the synagogue has a number of curio shops, so take a walk around. The synagogue is closed on Fridays.
An absolute must-do when in Kerala, the land of traditional Ayurveda practitioners. There is no dearth of Ayurveda centres, but the state government has a list of certified centres. Try it to soothe an aching body, or simply rejuvenate your mind and soul.
When in Kerala, eat as the Malayalis eat! Ditch your regular fare and dig into their wide range of both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. The traditional sadya—in which the dessert comes midway!— is a must-try; and if you want to taste a piece of heaven, go for the fresh and scrumptious seafood.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Holiday souvenirs can transport you back to the places where you created wonderful memories. There are many unique, handmade items available - aranmula kannadi (metal mirror), items made of coconut shells, mural replicas, and handloom items. Dry spices are also a good option.
Kerala is blessed with rich flora and fauna, and has many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks that are home to some rare animals and birds. Most of them practise sustainable eco-tourism that not only ensures a safe haven for the animals but is also mindful of the livelihood options of the tribal population residing in the vicinity of the forests.
Also known as the Periyar Tiger Reserve, this is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in the country. Lying in the mountainous Western Ghats of Kerala, it is home to the tiger and a large population of elephants which are its main attraction. One can also spot lion-tailed macaques, sambar, leopards and the Indian bison. Ecotourism initiatives here include the Periyar Tiger Trail, bamboo rafting, and a Tribal Heritage Programme.
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Established in 1973, the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary stretches to the protected areas of Nagarahole and Bandipur in Karnataka and Madumalai in Tamil Nadu. One can spot elephants, tigers, leopards, bears, many species of reptiles, and birds. There are two eco-tourism centres here—Muthunga and Tholpetty—for wildlife safaris, elephant camp visits, treks, birdwatching and tribal folklore, among other things, for visitors.