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A Travel Guide of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
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Fact File of Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapupram city, the bustling capital of Kerala State, is considered as one of the loveliest cities in India. Built on seven low coastal hills, the city has an interesting mixture of tree-fined avenues, massive buildings, ancestral homes and a long sea coast washed by the waves of the Arabian^sea. The city derives its name from Thiru-Anantha-puram - the abode of the serpent God on whom Lord Vishnu reclines.
The Sri Padmanabaswami temple here, is the nucleus around which the modem Thiruvananthapuram has emerged. The pleasant climate and lush greenery are the initial sights that greet the tourists. For those who arrive by air, a most enchanting bird's eye view of the coastal city and its palmfringed beach, motivate them to extend their stay, and take in Thiruvananthapuram at a leisurely pace. For, the city has so much to offer the tourist, traveller and pleasure-seeker. Clean, green Thiruvananthapuram, with its spacious layout and regulated life, is also an excellent base to explore the interiors of Kerala.
The History of Thiruvananthapuram
The history of Thiruvananthapuram city revolves closely around the Sri Padmanabha-swamy temple which is a famous landmark of the city today. Thiruvananthapuram emerged as an important city in 1750, when King Marthanda Varma, the founder of the erstwhile Travancore state, made it his royal seat, dedicating the city to Sri Padmanabha as an atonement for the sins of many wars waged and the resulting bloodshed.
Thiruvananthapuram achieved cultural progress and aesthetic refinement during the enlightened rule of Swathi Thirunal, the Royal composer. From this time onwards, the city gained in political and social importance. In 1888, the first legislative council was inaugurated during the reign of Sri Moolam Thirunal, An official committee of the Indian National Congress was formed here in 1938, and a political conference was held in the city.
Thiruvananthapuram achieved remarkable development during the reign of Sri Chitra Thirunal Balarama Varma in the 1930's. The events that followed made Thiruvananthapuram a place of intense activity in the social and political fields. The Temple Entry Proclamation in 1934 which permitted all Hindus irrespective of caste to enter the temples, and founding of the University of Travancore in 1937 were important steps in the development of this city. With the Independence of India in 1947, the State of Travancore became a part of the Indian Union. A new state was formed in 1949 by merging the princely states of Travancore and Cochin. Later, in 1956, during the reorganization of states on linguistic basis, the Malabar area, which till then belonged to the Madras Presidency was added to the Travancore-Cochin state. Thus Kerala state came into being on November 1,1956 with Thiruvananthapuram as its capital.
The Geography of Thiruvananthapuram
The second largest town in Kerala, in terms of population, Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital, is spread over an area of 74 sq.km. This uncrowded city also prides itself on being the cleanest city in India and one of the country's most inexpensive ones.
The Seasons of Thiruvananthapuram
Situated in the low-land bordering the Arabian Sea, Thiruvananthapuram is visited by both the South-West and the North-East monsoon every year. The rains begin towards the end of May or beginning of June as the South-West monsoon sets in. By September-October, the North-East monsoon takes over for another spell of rain. December ushers in dry weather and December-January are the cooler months. March-May are the summer months, and the humidity .is very high in the moisture-laden atmosphere of the plains.
The Climate of Thiruvananthapuram
December and January are fairly cool and March, April and.May are generally
hot. Though the mean temperature is only 90° F it is oppressive in the
moisture-laden atmosphere of the plains. Humidity is very high. The annual
variations of the temperature are very small.
The Culture of Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram is a great centre of learning and culture. Besides the University of Kerala, several colleges including a Medical college,- an Engineering College, an Agricultural College (Vellayani), an Ayurveda College, a Law College, a Sanskrit College, a College of Fine Arts and the Swatht Thirunal Music Academy lend colour to its academic fabric. A University Centre is located at Karyavattom 15 km away from the city.
The city can boast of at least two dozen cinema houses. The film industry has made progress with a number of film studios including the most sophisticated and well-equipped film studio in the public sector under the Kerala State Film Development Corporation. Music, Dance and Drama and other forms of art, both traditional and folk, are patronised by the people. The Tagore Centenary Theatre, Vazhuthacaud; Karthika Thirunal Theatre, Fort; the University Senate Hall, Palayam; Priyadarshini Hall, Fort; Victoria Jubilee Town Hall, Palayam; the Institution of Engineers Hall, etc. are the venues of programmes throughout the year.
Sports Clubs in Thiruvananthapuram
The various sports and recreation clubs located in different parts of the city are patronised by the people in the evening for games and recreations. They include Sri Moolam Club, Trivandrum club, Trivandrum Tennis Club and Women's Club. The city also possesses three big stadia, which are among the best of their kind in India. The University Stadium, the Chandrasekharam Nair Stadium in Palayam and the Central Stadium behind the Secretariat are noteworthy. The indoor Recreation Centre in the beach affords facilities for badminton, table tennis and caroms. The Veli Boat Club provides excellent facilities for boating with various types of boats, including hoovercraft, and swimming in the lagoon. Kovalam is one of the finest beaches in the Western Coast. Ashok Beach Resort has facilities for sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling etc. The Water Works Department maintains a swimming pool near Public Park which can be used by a visitor at a very nominal fee. KTDC's Mascot Hotel also offers facilities of a swimming pool and health dub, both open to non-residents. There are a number of yoga institutes in the city, too.
The Lifestyle of Thiruvananthapuram
This is a cosmopolitan city, where the past is always at hand. The pace is leisurely and festivals are celebrated over many days with traditional gaiety. The cuisine is spicy with a sharp pungency of tamarind, coconut adding richness and flavor. To soak in the essence of this strangely addictive city, forgo the modem jet-age pace and take a long holiday.
The Languages spoken in Thiruvananthapuram
The official language of the state is Malayalam but English is widely spoken and understood. .
Hinduism is the predominant religion. One of the principal Hindu castes of Kerala is that of the Nairs, among two of the country's only societies that follow a matriarchal system that has brought the women into social prominence. But it is not only the Hindus that make up the colorful mosaic; of this land. The Jews, for example, came to Kerala when they fled the rule of Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B C; St Thomas the Apostle came here in the first century A D, all these faiths have existed in complete harmony in Kerala. Today there are temples and mosques, churches and synagogues; they form the cohesive warp and weft that has gone into the making of the fabric of Kerala.
The Fairs and Festivals of Thiruvananthapuram
A year of festivities begins at Thiruvananthapuram in January, with The Elephant March organized by the Tourism department of Kerala. The activities begin at Kochi as caparisoned elephants escort tourists through Kochi, Kollam and the beautiful Kerala countryside. They reach Thiruvananthapuram on the fifth day, and an elephant show, Kalaripayattu, a traditional Kerala martial art and performance of Indian dances are held here. Cultural programmes, followed by a seaside barbecue and fireworks display mark the grand finale of this five-day festival.
The Padmanabhaswamy temple here is the venue of the 10-day Utsavam held in March/April and October/November every year. A procession with elephants, folk dance and music performances are held here. During this season, the Aarattu festival is also celebrated at the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The immersion of the deity at the local beach and a fireworks display form part of the festivities.
An important festival of the local Muslim population at Beemapalli is the Chandana Kudam Festival in March. Processions, sword-play, dances and fireworks are held during the festival.
The festival marking the paddy sowing season (April/May), also known as Vishu, is celebrated with devotion all over Kerala.
The harvest festival Onam in September, is the most important festival in Kerala. For the tourist interested in Kerala's rich cultural heritage, Onam is just the right time to visit. The Tourism Week - a weekful of heady celebrations are organized by the Kerala Tourism department at Thiruvananthapuram. Nearly 26 different spectacles including Kalaripayattu, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam are staged every day. Special fairs are arranged to display the exquisite workmanship of the artisans here. The food festivals, dance festival, backwater cruises and the famous snakeboat races promise greater excitement for tourists. Concerts by eminent classical musicians are held during Navarathri in September/October. The festival is celebrated in the Navarathri Mandapam of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Thiruvathira, a festival of the Nair community, is celebrated during December/January. Swinging, folk dances and prayers for conjugal harmony and happiness are performed during this festival.
The Art of Thiruvananthapuram
No matter what time of the year the visitor comes here, there are Kathakali performances to watch, a dance-drama based on the ancient epics forming one of the most colourful of the country's stage traditions. Male actors in make-up that take as much as two to three hours to apply cavort on the stage in a spellbinding display of artistic skills. Kathakali draws its themes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabarathc Of late, subjects like Rani of Jhansi, Humayan (the Mughal emperor), Buddha and Jesus Christ have also been adapted to Kathakali on an experimental basis. The women come to the stage with their own, more graceful dance form, the Mohiniattam. Other famous dance forms are - the Theyyam - a ritual dance glorifying Goddes Bhagavathi, the Kudiyattam - a dance drama in Sanskrit performed in temples, the Krishnanattam - Lord Krishna's biography on stage and the Ramanattam - devoted to the life of Rama.
Kalaripayattu is believed to be forerunner of all oriental forms of martial arts. Taught, initially, at 'Kalaris' or schools for the warrior clan, Kalaripayattu calls for lightning-fast reflexes and dexterous skills matured through years of training, body development and daily practice. There are 'Kalaris' at Thiruvananthapuram which impart training in Kalaripayattu in the traditional manner.
The Ayurvedic Heritage of Thiruvananthapuram
Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, the origin of which dates back to the Vedic Age, is practiced even today. Ayurveda, literally means 'the knowledge of life.' Kerala has always been its main centre. Thiruvananthapuram boasts of a full-fledged Ayurveda College and Research Centre.
The Architecture of Thiruvananthapuram
For one interested in architecture, Thiruvananthapuram has much to offer. The old palaces of the erstwhile rulers of Travancore now mostly house government offices. Their exterior architectural beauty can, however, still be admired. The Legislative Chamber, the Secretariat, the Victoria Jubilee Town Hall, and the University Buildings are also worth a notice.
The Handicrafts of Thiruvananthapuram
From time immemorial, art and religion have gone hand-in-hand in the history of mankind. This base of religious thinking is quite evident even in the recent carvings of ivory and bell-metal work. Exquisite carvings of gods and goddesses bring out classic lines of simple posture often embellished with intricate workmanship in creating the folds of the dress or in the ornaments. Ivory statues of deities, national leaders and animals, along with bell-metal lamps, ashtrays and jewel boxes are available in the emporia. The creamy-white of unbleached handloom with simple borders of shiny zari or gold is the specialty of Kerala. Metalware embedded with silver wire to bring out in vivid black-and-white contrast the delicate line-drawings of the dancing Nataraja or rural scenery is yet another interesting facet of Kerala handicrafts. Utility items like handbags are available created from a wide variety of material like handloom cloth, leather, reeds, coir and beads. Lamps come in various sizes and shapes ranging from the four-foot high bell-metal lamp used is Kathakali to miniature models to adorn the tabletop.
How to reach Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram is an international airport connected to some of the important centers in the Gulf, Europe and the U.S.A. by direct flights of Air India and other airlines. On the national network, Indian Airlines and other private airlines connect the city with Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kochi. Thiruvananthapuram is also connected with Sri Lanka and Lakshadweep by air. The Thiruvananthapuram airport is located at about 6 km. down town.
The Thiruvananthapuram central Railway Station is an important railway terminus on the South-Western Coast with train services from all parts of the country. The dty is well-connected by express train services to all major centres in the country.
Thiruvananthapuram has a good network of roads that link the city to all parts of the state and country. National Highway 47 passes through Thiruvananthapuram city. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation KSRTC and other transport corporations provide regular bus services to all major centers of South India.
The Central Bus Station is at Thampanoor.
The Shopping facilities at Thiruvananthapuram
Thiruvananthapuram is noted for its handicrafts. The city is famous for exquisite items like horn, wood and shell carvings, bell-metal lamps and vessels, metal mirrors, Kathakali figures and hand-crafted articles made of screw pine and coconut shells. Thiruvananthapuram' s traditional handloom specialties are soft white cottons with gold lace border, colorful sarees and dhotis. Following is a list of the important shopping centers at Thiruvananthapuram.
Tourist Spots in and around the city
Akkulam Boat Club
The Lake here, with its boating facilities, is a popular retreat for the city dwellers. A Children's park and snack-bar are the other attractions here.
Situated south-west of the Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station, Beemapalli is a shrine dedicated to the memory of Beema Beevi, a pious and devout Muslim lady. The Chandana Kudam Festival here in October attracts a large crowd..
Botanical and Zoological Gardens
The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo, supposed to be one of the best in the country, actually forms a part of the Botanical Gardens. The sprawling Botanical Garden contains many exotic trees and an excellent lake which forms a part of the Zoo, Established in 1859 AD, the Zoo contains a large collection of animals from India and abroad. Set amidst shady trees and forest-like landscape, the animals are provided with a natural habitat - the best that captivity can give. An aviary and reptile house are the added attractions here.
Zoo Timings: 8.00 hrs. to 18.00 hrs. Closed on Mondays.
Chithira Art Gallery
Situated within the Museum compound, the gallery has one of the best collections of the work of Raja Ravi Varma, a great force in Indian Art. Notable among the collection are several Roerich landscapes, copies of Rajput and Mughal paintings, works from the Tanjore school of Art and copies of paintings from the Ajanta caves. The gallery also has a fine collection of miniature paintings from China, Japan, Tibet and Indonesia.
Timings: W.OQhrs. to 17.00hrs.
C.V.N. Kalari Sangam
The Kaiari Sangam inside the Fort is where the ancient combat technique of Kalaripayattu is being taught. The Kalaripayattu which started as a system of physical culture and self defense, was considered an important skill on par with reading and writing. The art is now taught in a Kalari or small gymnasium by a gufukul (Master). Watching a class in progress is truly interesting as two opponents wield a variety of weapons ranging from short sticks to lethal spears.
The Fort and Palaces
Places and homes of the former rulers of Travancore can be found inside the Fort. These are masterpieces of Kerala architecture and they exhibit the results of outstanding workmanship in wood.
There are nearly 25 old palaces of varying degrees of importance in Thiruvananthapuram . The oldest palace in the East Fort complex is the Valiyakottaram - the big' palace. The Kanakakunnu Palace in particular, is a spectacular piece of architecture.
Handicrafts Design Centre
Since Thiruvananthapuram is famous for its Handicrafts, a visit to the Handicraft Design Centre is a must. The display of ivory work, wood carving, embroidery and shell work here is outstanding. Here, one can even see artisans engaged in making these handicrafts. Nearby is a fine swimming pool.
Surrounded by lavishly wooded beautiful gardens, the Napier Museum is housed in a striking building with a unique architectural design. Within is a wealth of bronze and stone sculpture, wood carvings, temple models, musical instruments antique jewellery and an exhibition of modern handicrafts from the State Design Centre.
Located within the museum compound in a modern annexe, is one of the country's finest Natural History Expositions. This collection consists of stuffed animals and birds, skeletons and fossil remains.
Timings: 8.00 hrs. to 18.00 hrs. Closed on Mondays and Wednesday mornings.
Adjoining the Museum are the exquisitely laid out Public Gardens, spread over 50 acres of hills and lakes with beautiful paths, terraces, lawns, flower-beds and lakes. The Zoo is also located within the Public Gardens.
Established in 1837, the Thiruvananthapuram observatory is one of the oldest in India. Its buildings atop observatory Hill are among the beautiful architectural landmarks of Thiruvananthapuram. One can get a good view of the city from here.
One of the oldest public libraries in the country, the Thiruvananthapuram Public Library was started by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal in 1829. The book collection here is one of the largest in the country.
Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The Sri Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple, located near the bus stand at East Fort, is the city's most impressive landmark. Its 7 storey gopuram built in the 16th century is one of the finest specimens of traditional South Indian temple architecture which reflects the Kerala influence. The temple corridors are lined with 368 sculpted stone pillars. Beautiful murals and ornamentation adorn the walls. The temple was renovated by the Maharajah of Travancore in 1733, Only Hindus can enterthe temple, wearing dhoti in a certain style. Two important festivals are celebrated here in March-April and October-November every year. Each festival, lasting for 10 days, ends with a procession when the deity is taken to the Sankumughom beach for a ceremonial bath.
Other temples in the city are:
Sree Ganapathy Temple, Pazhavangadi; Sree Subramonia temple, Puthenchandai; Sreekanteswaram Temple, Sreekanteswaram; SreeVaraham Temple, Sreevaraham; Sree Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, near Manacaud; Balagopalaswami Temple, Ab dasramam, East Fort.
There are two important mosques in the city, one at the Cantonment opposite (he Connemara Market and other at Bheemapalli near the pier on the way to the airport.
This palm-fringed beach near the airport, with its indoor recreation club and Childrens Traffic Training Park is fine for an outing-though not for Swimming.
The Aquarium near the Sankumughom beach has a rate and attractive collection of fish and other marine creatures and plants. This aquarium is considered to be one of the largest and most up-to-date in Asia.
Timings: 9.30 hrs to 18.00 hrs. Closed on Mondays.
Science and Technology Museum
The Science and Technology Museum near Mascot Hotel, offers an insight into the impressive growth achieved by India in the scientific and technological fields. The museum is a must for students of science and technology.
Timings: 10.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs. Closed on Mondays.
The Thiruvananthapuram University's beautiful campus at Kariavattom also
contains the Oriental Research Institute and Manuscript Library. The 70,000 palm
leaf manuscripts owned by the library, constitute one of the world's largest
collections. Besides these, the library has a wealth of other literary
This is located in a building opposite to the University Buildings.
The many colonnaded building with its imposing porch and clock-tower dates
back to 1869. The new multi-storeyed unit to its south has been designed to
follow the general lines of the main edifice. There is an Information Centre and
Press Room in this section.
This is the Central Handicrafts Emporium, situated behind the Secretariat.
Medical College Campus
This is a good example of modem planned development of area and utilities. Spread over hundreds of acres of undulating grounds, the various units like the College Building, Men's Hospitals, Nursing School, Men's and Women's Hostels, Administrative Blocks, Post Office and Bank, the Canteen all together form almost a township within its walls. Ample recreational areas and gardens add to the charm of its layout.
Veil Tourist Village
Situated near the Thiruvananthapuram airport, Veil Tourist Village with its
beautiful gardens, exquisite sculptures and floating bridge, is a popular
recreational centre. There is an enchanting lagoon here for swimming. Facilities
for boating and other water-sport activities are also provided.
A modem, well-equipped swimming pool in the Waterworks compound near the museum becomes the venue of several national aquatic championship every year.
Excursions at the Out Skirts of Thiruvananthapuram
Agasthyakoodam (19 km)
This prominent peak in the Sahayadri ranges is noticeable by its height and isolation when seen from a distance. The peak rises for about 2,000 feet in the form of a sharp pointed cone.
Aruvikkara (16 km)
Situated on the banks of the Karamana River, this pilgrim centre has an ancient Bhagavathi temple built on a rock. The stream in front of the temple contains large fish which are fed by the devotees who come here. The reservoir and garden here make Aruvikkara an excellent picnic spot.
Aruvippuram (22 km)
The Siva Temple built by Sri Narayana Guru is visited by several pilgrims
during, the festival of Sivarathri. An added attraction is the waterfalls
Famous for its fishing project, the backwater scenery here is breathtakingly beautiful.
Kanniyakumari (Tamil Nadu) (87 km)
The southernmost tip of the Indian sub continent, Kanniayakumari is where the three seas - Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean - meet. It is considered a holy .place because of its temple dedicated to Oevi Kanya Kumari. The coloured sands of the beach and the rising and setting of the sun here are truly spectacular sights not to be missed. The Gandhi Smarak Mandir and Vivekananda Rock Memorial are the added attractions here. Boat trips to the rock memorial are organised on ali days except Tuesdays.
Timings: 7.00 hrs to 11.00 hrs 14.00 hrs to 17.00 hrs.
Kollam (61 km)
Kollam is an old seaport town on the banks of the Ashtamudi fake. It is today, a busy, friendly city where cashew and pepper are still transported in little country boats in its cool and placid backwaters. Tourists can also visit the Tangasseri Light House and the Thlrumullavaram Beach. The 9 hour boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha along these backwaters can be an unforgettable experience.
How to reach Thiruvananthapuram?
Distance Between Thiruvananthapuram and other Cities of India in Kilometers
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