Alappuzha: How green is my backwater…
Alleppey orAlappuzha, on the banks of Vembanad Lake is well known as the Venice of the East. Its similarity with the Italian city is all due to the network of backwater canals around it. The town of Alappuzha is one of the gateways to the backwaters of Kerala.
One of the best-known ports along the Malabar coast, Alappuzha is doubly advantaged. Not only does it have natural beauty but it is also the hub of the coir trade and coir production centre. More than anything else, it is the countryside, minutes away from the town, that woos visitors. And the best part of the country can only be seen and appreciated on a country-made boat cruise up and down the narrow canals. Temperate and humid like most coastal places in Kerala, Alappuzha can be best enjoyed in winter.
Alappuzha's claim to fame is not merely for the backwaters or the coir products. It is here that the Nehru Trophy boat race is held every year on the second Saturday of August. Other than the backwater cruise and the boat race, you can take time off to visit the Chettikulangara Bhagvathy Temple in Alappuzha. The Kettukazhcha festival in February/March at the temple is well known for its spectacular pageant of chariots, horses and bullocks and cultural performances. At Ambalapuzha, 14 km away from Alappuzha, there is a Sree Krishna Temple built in the typical Kerala style. The temple is famed for the Palpayasam, that is served to the deity and later distributed to all those who visit the temple.
Further away is the St. Sebastian Church, 22 km north of Alappuzha. Established by Portuguese missionaries, it is an important pilgrimage centre for the Christians of the state. Closer to Alleppey is Chavara Bhavan but one can only visit it by boat. The ancestral home of the blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, there is a holy shrine which is venerated by devotees who visit it. The attraction of the place is the more than 250-year-old light which has been preserved in its original form.
Champakulam Church, one of the seven churches established by St. Thomas in Kerala, is one of the important Christian places of worship in Alappuzha. There is another old church, dating back to 1810, the Edathua Church on the Alleppey - Thiruvalla Road and around 25 km from Alappuzha. Dedicated to St. George, the church sees people from all faiths every year in the beginning of May, since it is believed that prayers and offerings to the patron saint cures mental disorders and other ailments.
One of the most popular tourist destinations is the long, sandy Alleppey beach. The pier, which extends into the sea, near the beach is well over a century old. One can enjoy the entertainment facilities at the Vijaya beach park and also take a look at the old lighthouse nearby.
Your backwater trip will take you to Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala. The greenery of the Kuttanad countryside is only broken by the banana gardens. A fascinating fact about Kuttanad is that the paddy fields are well below sea level with the backwater canals flowing above the general level of the land. One of the important destinations on the backwater cruise is the mythical Pathiramanal Island - literally the 'Sands of midnight' -- a haunt of thousands of rare migratory birds, which fly in to spend their summers from half way across the world. The 10-acre island in the backwaters is only accessible by boat.
Like other cities of Kerala, Allapuzha has history too. The 18th century Krishnapuram Palace, 47 km from Alleppey, was built during the reign of Marthanda Varma, the monarch of Travancore monarch. The palace is constructed in typical Kerala fashion with gabled roofs and narrow corridors. On the ground floor of the mansion is the largest mural in Kerala, the 'Ganjendra Moksham'. There is also a museum with antique sculptures and paintings in the building.
Reaching Alleppey: The nearest airport is the Kochi International Airport, 66 away. Alleppey is also well-connected to Kochi by rail and road.
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