Kerala's colour green is its mood festive. Lush plantations rise from the sea and sweep the entire state in verdant glory, swathing the countryside, the only relief being backwaters along which coconut palms stretch to the skies; the culmination is in the upward fling of the hills where tea and coffee plantations nurture the greens to a denser, monsoon-washed, forest palette.
In this entrancing state, a mere strip of south- western India hugged by the coast on one side, by hills on another, a fascinating voyage of discovery awaits travellers.
Splendid festivals with mysterious rituals, full of colour and open to participation; herds of elephants leading processions, or in the wild; exotic handicrafts and seafood preparations fresh from the Arabian Sea; cosmopolitan cities where the past is always at hand, and small towns where time has stood still; all this and more makes Kerala the ideal holiday destination, far removed from the cares of the everyday world.
The sweeping network of canals honey-combing the town of Alleppey(Alappuzha) has earned for the place its sobriquet - "The Venice Of East." Small, low slung country boats are the taxis of this water land. It Is a heart -warming sight to see them carry a motley assemblage of cycles, goats, fisherwomen with cane baskets, school children, toddy-tappers with their knives and pots, duennas in white with gold ear-rings, Syrian Christian priests and bare-chested boat man apiece. Do not miss out on a ride into Kuttanad through simmering, green paddy fields and tail- waging, head-bobbing groups of ducks.The coir- workers too present an interesting sight as they soak coconut fibre in pools
Situated 47 kms from Allepey on the way to Quilon (travel time:1 hour), this 18th century palace houses the largest mural in Kerala - the Gajendra Moksam
The Sri Krishna Temple at Ambalappuzha, 14 kms south of Alleppey(travel time :20 min) conforms to the Kerala style of architecture. Devotees throng here during its festival held in March- April.
Standing at Mannarsala near Harippad, 32 kms south of Alleppey en route to Quilon (travel time : 45 min.), this temple is the most important centre of serpent worship, located within 16 acres of thick, verdant jungle.
Come into Cochin (kochi). Queen of the Arabian sea. Believed to be the finest natural harbour in the world. With ferry rides commanding its breathtaking view. As you cruise around man-made islands with lush green lawns sloping down to the water's edge.
Aboard, you can relax with a drink, watching the Arab Dhows in the foreground. And behind, the tree-shaded buildings of spice-traders and merchants, the descendants of the families who sold gold, ivory, timber and peacock to King Solomon 19 centuries ago.
Further south lies Kadalundi with its charming bird sanctuary - haven to an amazing assortment of delightful water birds.
Another river of the region - Korapuzha - is fast gaining popularity as the venue of the water sports festival - the Korapuzha Jalotsavam - staged every August.Teak and bamboo poles dot the entrance to the harbour. Silhouetted against the setting sun, they present a magnificent sight of the waterfront.
Cochin is the oldest European settlement in India. Recording a history of visitors who came, saw and stayed for hundreds of years. Layered impressions Chinese, Arab, Jewish, British, French and Purtuguese are contained within its environment.
PLACES OF INTEREST:
OLD JEW TOWN:
Built in 1568, its Synagogue is the oldest in the commonwealth. Adorned by exquisite hand painted Chinese tiles in blue and white. No two are identical. The great scrolls of the Old Testament are preserved here.
ST. FRANCIS CHURCH:
Originally built out of wood in 1503 and thus earning fame as the oldest European church in India. Interestingly, one of the world's greatest explorers, Vasco-Da-Gama was buried here.
Along the 600 kilometre length of the Kerala coast, there are many sandy beaches, rocky promontories and coconut palms. The fishing village of Kovalam lies 10 kilometres south of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. The Kovalam beach is one of the best beaches in India and is very popular with international tourists. Industry is relatively small scale in this area and the prices low. The beach is just a few minutes walk from the village.
Hawah, the middle beach, overlooked from a rocky headland by the five star Ashok Radisson resort, functions each morning as a base for local fishers.
North of the Ashok, though in full view of its distinctive sloping terraces, the final, northernmost beach, Samudra, is the least affected of all by the changing times, dotted with a few rudimentary wooden fishing vessels.
Swimming on the beaches is not always safe, as the undertow can be very strong, therefore it is essential to follow the warnings of the safety flags. However, days can be spent here just lolling around on the sands or retreating under the awnings of the beach cafes.
There are numerous craft and carpet shops (usually of Tibetan, Kashmiri and Rajasthani origin), clothing stores and general stores, yoga schools, travel agents and massage parlours lining the beach.
Direct bus-services connect Trivandrum with Kovalam (16 kms), a sheltered bay endowed with unusual beauty. This natural bay is a safe sea-pool free from high waves and surge. And the beach resort here is of international standard.
Up north in Kerala, the cool backwaters of Calicut (Kozhikode) lie waiting to be discovered. With a bewitching beauty of its own unspoilt, uncommon, unknown.North east of the city, Elathur offers an ideal jump-off base into the Canoly Canal - a name taken after its British builder and administrator.
PLACES TO SEE:
A short hop on the Korapuzha river brings you to the famed, enchanting Kappad beach, where Vasco-Da-Gama set foot 500 years ago.
This small coastal town eleven kilometres south of Calicut has built up a worldwide reputation through centuries as a ship-building centre. Large wooden vessels called "Urus" built here, were used by the naval commanders of England in their victorious battles against Napoleon.
Located at east hill, the Pazhassirahjah museum displays ancient murals, antique bronzes and rare coins as well as models of temples and megalithic monuments