Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kanyakumari - A travelogue - Part 3

Visit to Kanyakumari was an accidental decision. The initial plan was to visit Udayagiri Fort and Peer Mohammed Dargah which were very near to Padmanabhapuram Palace. Say, for about 3km. But, we dropped the plan as Kanyakumari beckoned us.

We did go to Udayagiri fort which consisted of a large botanical garden. But after spending a lot of hours in the palace, we are completely drained out and the idea of a troll in the vast acres of land seemed less appealing. But both Udayagiri Fort and Peer Mohammed Dargah dedicated to Peer Mohammed, a Sufi saint and a Tamil poet  will not be missed, next time. 

 Though we knew that neither could we able to watch the sun set nor could we make it to the Vivekananda rock, we set off to Kanyakumari.

On the way, we saw some women putting ' Kolam' in front of their houses. Since, you wanted to write a travelogue, this would be a pho togrpah, you would like to have.We stopped in front of a house where a young woman was engaged in putting ' Kolam. But she shied away saying the Kolam was not good. We persisted with our demand and then her  mother smilingly said
 " Here, I am and you click it. "  And this is it.

 Along the NH, the travel was a smooth one with shady trees on either sides of the road. The journey was uneventful until we reached here. 

There were many small cradles tied down to many branches of a banyan tree. Inside one of them, we saw a small doll placed inside many red glass bangles. Behind the tree, there was a small temple. 

To our luck, two women came there to whom we inquired about it. From the cradles we could already make out that it has some connection with child- bearing. They said the Kovil was called ' Isakkaiamman kovil'. But we could n't ask more as they were in a hurry to visit the temple. Hence, I decided to surf the google.

This is the information, I got from the wiki.

Isakki or Isakkai is a Hindu Goddess of South India. She is considered as one of the village Goddesses, like Māri, the goddess of epidemics. 
The worship of this Goddess is common in the Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu.

Isakki temples  usually have a banyan or bo tree close to the shrine. Small wooden cribs and pieces of women's saris are tied to the branches and aerial roots of the spreading tree. These are vows made by village women who desire to have offspring.

Hence, I again went through my photographs to see if I have captured any pics of sarees being tied to the tree. Yes, there is

Just near to it, there is a small way-side shop. And, they were preparing something. I was curious to know what it is. They called it ' Rasakkolai '.  I don't know whether it is the correct pronunciation. It somewhat tasted like ' Yellow jalebi' and was absolutely delicious. 

And they make it in this big pan.

I believe, it was the bike trip which helped us come across such beautiful things all along the way which would have otherwise missed, had we taken any other mode of transportation.

After travelling a few kilometers, we reached ' Kanyakumari'. The sight of sea from a farther distance was all alluring and inviting. It took 32 kms from Thuckalay to reach Kanyakumari.

We are dead tired and  just wanted to sit quietly and absorb all the tranquility from the place. We sat here facing the Vivekananda rock. I was all calm. It was strange that I didn't regret that I couldn't see the Vivekananda rock. Because, I know that I would come back.

The premise was abuzz with activities and I was all pleased to watch them.

 I always Chana Masala and corn

 I bought this pearl from a shop vendor. He really lured me by saying that the pearls would not even catch fire. He burned it in front of me and it was true.

It was getting dark and was time to return. 
With a heavy heart and a promise that I would be back soon, I bade good bye to Kanyakumari. 

And my belief that travel could really retain my sanity, strengthened.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Padmanabhapuram Palace at Thuckalay- ­The old palace of the kings of erstwhile Travancore( 1550 to 1750 AD) A travelogue - Part 2

NB: All the pictures are taken by me. Please bear with the mistakes as I am taking pictures for the first time.

From Thiruvananthapuram, it took 58 kms to reach Padmanabhapuram Palace at Thuckalay.


Every moment inside the Kottaram ( the palace ) was a conversation with history. It was a real royal splendour. If you are a keen lover of art and architecture you could not afford to miss this magnificent wooden palace sprawling over 6.5 acres of land inside the Padmanabhapuram Fort with 108 huge distinctly made rooms.


The palace was constructed around 1601 A.D by Ravipillai Ravivarma Kulasekhara Perumal who ruled Travancore between 1592 AD and 1609 AD.

The Travancore dynasty was formerly called ' Venad state' and the historians say, the capital of ' Venad Rajavamsam' was at Kollam. Later it was transferred to Kalkkulam in Kanyakumari distrct. The strongest administrator among the Travancore rulers was King Marthanda Varma who ruled from 1729 to 1758. He gained the name - 'Padmanabha Dasan' - the servant of Padmanabha by handing over his Kingdom to God Ananthapadmanabha. And the name Kalkkulam then became Padmanabhapuram.

This is a curious lamp one could see when one enters the portico of the Palace. It has a mechanism which enables it to rotate 360 degree. To give light to the direction you need, you just have to rotate it to that direction.

It is throuh these narrow stairs we entered the 'Kottaram' - the palace. And every moment inside was a conversation with the history. It was truly a royal splendour. 

This is where the Kings convened their royal courts.
 And they met their subjects here 

the women in the harem watched activities such as ' Theroottam' here.

 The views from inside the Palace..

 This is called Sapramancham - the cot of the Kings was made with more than 68 ayurveda herbs. 

Navarathri Mandapam and Kannadithara - Every Malayalees would remember it. This is the place where Ganga transformed into Nagavalli and danced. Yes, I am referring to the Malayalam film ' Manichitrathazhu' . The film was shot in this Palace.

King Marthandavarma built Navarathri Mandapam in 1744 AD. The dance floor was polished to such a perfection that it looked like a mirror and is known as ' Kannadithara or Mirror floor'. 
Various cultural programmes were organised here. Seperate rooms with a ' Kilivathil' - small windows were built on its wall. So that the royal train would watch it without being seen by the public.

 Oottupura - In this massive dining hall around 1000 people were served a day.

The food used to be stored here.

( Swing ) Oonjal and the Mirror - The back of the mirror was coated with silver. The reflection would appear the same wherever you stand. There is another mirror on the opposite side.
Many roofs have Chinese carvings and the roof of Thaikkottaram has 90 floral designs. The black floor was made with a combination of egg white, jaggery lime, burnt coconut, charcoal and river sand, granite tubs to cool curd and buttermilk.

The small and the big kitchen

he Archaeological museum was partially under renovation

 The deity inside the temple -Saraswathy. 
The original deity was in the Padmanabha Swamy temple and will be brought back to the palace on Tuesday. We went on a Wednesday. Now the ritual of bringing back had already taken place.


The reign of Travancore rulers imposed severe punishments to the accused. especially those who engaged in killing a brahmin or committed treason. They were forced to Chithravadham or gradual death. The accused were caged and hanged in an open place especially in a junction, market places or other important places. The caged culprit suffered from rain and sun, plucked by crows or vultures and finally dies. He was not given food/water. 
It was erected 10 to 12 feet high from the ground level. This type of punishments were practiced in Travancore and Cochin state till British took over.

Sad that this pond is not taken care of 

Finally, see what this is...

concluded our visit with a delicious  Karrikkin vellam which we found in the premise of the palace, just near to that pond.

Now, off to Kanyakumari

Nearest railway station: Eraniel, which is approximately 5 km from Thuckalay Nearest airport: Trivandrum International Airport, 52 km away.

to be continued...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Padmanabhapuram Palace and Kanyakumari - A travelogue - Part 1

PS : I will be writing this travelogue in three parts. Otherwise, it will bore you..

On one Tuesday night, I prayed to God “ please let there be no rain tomorrow” and he did hear that.  To my surprise, there was no rain on Wednesday, the day I decided to go for a trip. I was apprehensive for it was a bike trip and rain would spoil my plans. Surprisingly, except that day heavy rains lashed at the city.

 On Wednesday, the sun was beating down on our heads. Though travelling solo did fascinate me, I had no prior experience. Hence, I decided to travel with one of my friends, who shared the same passion (maybe more ) for travelling. Traveling abroad has always been my dream. But, I have not even seen my country and my state – Kerala. So, I decided to know my own roots, first. 

 Padmanabhapuram Palace and Kanyakumari were a natural choice as I am staying in Thiruvananthapuram. Both of them are not in Kerala. But the palace is of course built by the Kerala Kings and its management is completely under the state archaeology department of Kerala.

 For me, this trip will always be memorable because I, eventually mustered the courage to do something  which I always wanted to do. Above all,  I realised that travelling could retain my sanity. 

There were many 'firsts' for me in this trip. I went on a bike trip for the first time,
 for the first time I wore a helmet,
 for the first time, my phone showed 'roaming' sign,
 for the first time, I crossed the Kerala boarder ( I did cross it when I was 15. But then, I did not even know Kanyakumari is in Tamil nadu ).
Finally, I took pictures with my own camera for my blog.

These things would sound frivolous. But it made a huge difference to me.

So, we started off from Thiruvananthapuram and passed through the pot- holed roads of Kerala accompanied by many ogling eyes. There were flux erected on either sides of the roads as the local self government elections are about to begin in Kerala.

I told my travel partner to stick to coconut water and pulp if we get thirsty and hungry until we have our lunch. Thankfully all along the roads, there were vendors selling it. And we could see them even after crossing the border. 

The first curiosity came when we reached Parassala, the border of Kerala to Tamil nadu. There was a beautiful ' Aambal Poika' – a pond full of water lillies called Thavalayilla Kulam.
Thavalayilla Kulam 

I asked about it to ' Padma kumar chettan', a local who was standing nearby. He said 
' Thavalayilla kulam' means  'pond sans frogs' and started citing the story behind it. “ The erstwhile King Marthandavarma used to visit a temple, nearby. Whenever he left  the place, the frogs in the pond would cry pleading him not to go. Their pleading became such a nuisance that someone cursed the frogs- ' let there be no frogs in the pond',” he said with a grave face. But 'Padma Kumar chettan' could not say who cursed the frogs - Is it the King or anybody else. Ponds and rivers are not a rarity in Kerala. But I was happy that I inquired about this particular pond.   

Just as we crossed Marthandam ( the border ), the flex of ' Amma' as they fondly called Ms Jayalitha ( chief minister of Tamil nadu) started appearing on either sides of the road. And visible changes could be seen. Firstly, no pot holed roads. Then, giving a sense of relief, there were no ogling eyes but friendly ones. At every junction, music blared out of loud speakers. 

The mechanic we met in a workshop was kind enough to repair our bike as he sensed that we are on a long trip. The other client whose work he was doing at that time even did not register any protest. Yes, we entered Tamilnadu.

And we already knew that Tamilians are such a friendly people. Simple and so real.

The Padmanabhapuram palace is at Thacaulay. 

When we finally reached there, the ticket counter was closed for the lunch break. We wiled away time by clicking some photographs.

 Finally, we entered  one of the biggest ' Wooden Palaces ' of Asia.
to be continued....

Monday, October 26, 2015

Home is where the heart is...

I started yearning for a home when I got a transfer to Thiruvananthapuram from Kochi.
 ' Yearning for a home' did not mean husband and children. I was talking about a house which could give me a feeling of intimacy.
Where my heart would love to dwell.
Where I can unwind being oblivious to million other things that are happening around. 

And, my mother always said " Cooking in your own kitchen is an important way to make a house, a home."

The thought of cooking in my own kitchen did not sprout, all of a sudden. Unlike our Kochi office, the news bureau at Thiruvananthapuram was located in a residential area. The canteen will be closed by 5 pm. So, when you really need to have a cup of coffee, you have to go the tea/coffee shops nearby. Though, I used to go out at 6 pm, I stopped that habit, gradually. Primarily, because I hardly had any company to go out.

On either side of the pocket road which leads to the office, there are houses. And whenever I went out at 6 pm, the aroma of shallots and garlic being sauteed in coconut oil would fill my nostrils. They are making dinner. This always evoked nostalgia and a yearning to clasp to something which I can call as my own. I badly wanted to bring back all those aromas which I experienced as a child at home.

Besides, I was sick of taking food from outside. Even when I was staying in a flat in Kochi, I hardly did cooking. Now, without my knowledge, I slowly slipped into cooking. And with homely meals, I shed two kilos  and felt all healthy again. I thank Thiruvananthapuram for that, besides giving me a space to think what I really need in my life. 

Here comes my simple meal

Steaming rice, ' Cherupayarupperi', curd and chammanthi.

 Boiling ' rice'

This is how I filter rice from the water

Now heat oil in a pan. Saut crushed shallots and garlic in coconut oil. When it is brown in colour, add crushed red chilli powder. Mix it. The ' cherupayaru' – green gram which was boiled in a pressure cooker is then added to it. 

Cover the pan with a lid and cook it for a few minutes in low flame.  Shallots and garlics are crushed with this mortar. 

The ' Cheruppayarupperi' is ready.

A bit of curd is also tasteful. Years ago, a thought somehow crept into my mind that adding curd in your food will make you more beautiful. I still believe that. After after having rice, curry mixed with curd, I always felt beautiful.

Now, the simple dinner is ready. I loved eating food sitting on the floor.

The cooking has also taught me a big lesson. It's the small pleasures of life that makes your life beautiful. And I have constantly ignored that. 

Not again....