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Travel Guide on Alappuzha, Kerala
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Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey is the center for backwater cruises in Kerala through a network of canals which passes through the town. Alappuzha also has a long sandy beach, and is the center of the coir products of Kerala. Alappuzha has several canals and lakes fit for boat cruise. Three prominent rivers in the Southern grid to Kerala viz. Achankovil, Pampa and Manimala empty into the lakes. The backwaters and lakes serves as a inland waterway system making easy for the people to transfer the goods from one place to other. Nehru Trophy Boat Race, snake-boat race in Kerala is held here. Situated on the banks of Vembanad Lake, the town's commercial centre lives in a maze of canals. Set in the labyrinth of Backwater channels, the town is one of the best gateways to explore the unspoilt countryside. A historic and romantic name from Kerala's past, Alappuzha was once one of the best known ports along the coast of Malabar. The centre for Backwater Cruises in Kerala, the Backwaters of Alappuzha can be best experienced in a country boat. Alappuzha is a bustling, messy town of ramshackle wood and corrugalated roof houses, chiefly significant in the Coir industry. The large network of canals provides Alleppey its lifeline. It has a spectacular long sandy beach. At one end are the dense palm groves that are so characteristic of Kerala's landscape.
To label Alappuzha (Alleppey) the 'Venice of the East' might today appear a far fetched cliché of travelogue writers, but this quaint little town is certainly the Venice of India. Nowhere else will you find spread out across the centre of town a unique criss-crossing network of canals on which thatch covered county boats punt along leisurely. The proximity of lakes adds to the Venetian ambience.
But when the town was founded by Raja Kesavadasan, the dewan of Travancore in 1762, there was just one canal through the strip of sand between the backwaters and the sea. This soon grew into a boosting waterway, with shops, factories and commercial establishments springing up on either banks of the canal. This attracted merchants from other parts of the country.
By the mid-19th century the sea had receded a mile offering more land along the sandstrip. Trading vessels soon began to call on Alappuzha. In 1859 the 1st organized coir factory was started here and began producing matting from coir yarn for a loom developed by an English sea captain soon other British owned weaving establishments followed.
Meanwhile, in 1816, the church missionary society set up its local head quarters in Alappuzha and three years later the first Anglican church was build. In 1851 Alappuzha had the honour of housing the first post-office in the erstwhile Travancore. The commercial importance of Alappuzha began to decline after the late 1920s with the development of Cochin into a major port and harbor. However, today Alappuzha is still a major centre for trade in coir, copra and coconut oil. Thanks to its long coast, Alappuzha is also a centre for fishing and marine products processing activities.
For tourists Alappuzha is the pivotal point for trips into Kerala's famed backwaters and the states lush rice bowl, Kuttanad between Quilon to the south and Kottayam to the east lie some of the most entrancing scenery of palm-linked banks, quiet water bound villages and the boats taking the local people to and fro - everything framed in green.
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 to the final rope/coir yarn stage. There are also several shops selling coir mattings 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 the 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 1962 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 battle ships 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 hundred rovers in each, race to the finish to the accompaniment of rousing music.
A traveler can use Alappuzha as a base to make excursions to near by historical sites and scenic spots. Pathiramanal, a beautiful little island in the Vembanad Lake which can be reached by boat is said to be developed as a major tourist spot. Boats to the island now operate on Sundays from Muhamma and Kumarakom.
The Sree Krishna temple at Ambalapuzha 14 Km from Alappuzha, is among Kerala's more famous ones, boasting of the typical temple architectural style of the state. It is equally famed for its palpayasam, a sweet milk porridge offered to the deity. 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 swallow dance performance with a high social content.
Close to Ambalapuzha the village of Karumadi is famous to its Karumadi Kuttan, a black granite figure of Buddha said to belong to 9th or 10th Century. During his visit to Kerala in 1965, the Dalai Lama worshipped at this shrine. Arthunkal, known for the St. Andrews Church established by Portuguese missionaries in 1951, is near Sherthalai, 22 Km north of Alappuzha. The feast of St. Sebastian is held here every January.
On the Pampa river is Chambakulam, the site for the famous boat regatta held during August/ September which has traditionally involved the participation of all communities.
The 18th century Krishnapuram Palace, built during the reign of the Travancore Monarch, Marthanda Varma is a double-storied structure which displays typical characteristics of Kerala architecture-gabled roofs, dormer windows, narrow corridors.
It houses one of the largest mural paintings in Kerala called the Gajendra Moksham, it measures 14 feet by 11 feet and is at the western end of the ground floor, a walking distance from the Palace pool. Inside is also a museum of antique sculptures, paintings and bronzes. Situated 47 km from Alappuzha on the way to Quilon, Krishnapuram is easily accessible by bus from either town.
A short distance from Alleppey, is Punnapra, a village which has gone down in history as the scene of a bitter and heroic fighting between the Communists and the Travancore State Police in the Punnapra-Vayalar Communists uprising of 1946.
Mannarsala 32 Km from Alleppey, is a very important centre of serpent worship in Kerala. Built in a cool grove of trees and shrubs, this temple is said to contain 30,000 images of snake-gods, which line the path to the temple.
Backwaters refers to the large inland lakes of Kerala, consisting of the entire network of lakes, canals, estures and curious water formations. The backwaters of Kerala stretch over 1900 kms, providing drinking water and irrigating paddy. There are around 1500 canals in and around Alleppey itself.
The waterways of Kerala have played a crucial role in the economy of the state. Rice boats and shall ships used to trod these waters, carrying coconut. Backwaters have special events during August-September. The electrifying races by carved wooden boats set the back waters on fire. The "Nehru Boat Race", named in honor of the late prime minister of india, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, is the most excitng of all the boat races. it is held on the second Saturday of August. During the "Onam" festival, many boat-races, including the kuttandad and tha Aranmula boat race are conducted in the Alleppey Region
Venice of the East by travelers from across the world, this backwater country is also home to a diversity of animal and bird life. By virtue of its proximity to the sea, the town has always enjoyed a unique place in the maritime history of Keralah. Today Alappuzha has grown in importance as a backwater tourist centre, attracting several thousands of foreign tourists every year.
Alappuzha is also famous for its boat races, houseboat holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry.
A singular characteristic of this region, called Kuttanad, is a land of lush paddy fields. Kuttanad is called the rice bowl of Kerala and is one of the few places in the world, where farming is done below sea level.
Alleppey is also known for its spectacular snake-boat race held on the second Saturday of August, each year. This competition the Nehru Boat Race takes its name from India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who inaugurated it in 1952. It is excitement all around as snake-boats cut through the waters, like the wind. The event is a tremendous success with tourists and the local population alike. They are held in connection with Onam, the State festival of Kerala. Each snake boat is manned by over a hundred men, who row in unison to the fast rhythm of the Vanchipattu. The buoyant spirits of the participants get further revved up through their Kuthu Pattu (songs mocking men in rival boats).