It's always a pleasant experience to drive through the rains and this time also, it was not different. It was 7 AM on the 7th of August'16 and we took the Guruvayur-Kodungallur route to Kumarakom, in the southern part of Kerala. We had "Ney-roast" (ghee dosa) and "uzhunnuvada" (medu vada) and tea from Kodungallur for breakfast. Rains had stopped by then. Enroute Kumarakom, we planned to visit the Thrippunithara Hill Palace and Museum. The palace was just few kms. away from the highway.
Many malayalam movies has been shot at this palace, including the block buster, "Manichithrathazhu" starring Mohanlal, Suresh Gopi and Shobhana. Built in 1865, by the Maharaja of Kochi, the Hill Palace is now the largest archaeological museum in Kerala. Later, the Palace was handed over to the Govt.of Kerala by the Kochi Royal family. In 1980, the palace was taken over by the Department of Archaeology and later converted into a Museum.
We stepped inside the Palace and could see many exhibits of stone inscriptions and manuscripts, sculptures in stone and marble, ornaments, coins, pottery and ceramic vases from China and Japan, Kudakkallu (tombstone), Thoppikkallu (hood stone), rock-cut weapons belonging to the Stone Age and old wooden temple models etc. One of the main attractions was the gold crown embedded with precious stones. The huge collection of oil paintings and murals are noteworthy. The thrones, royal beds and the grand chandeliers give us a picture of the royal life led by the Kochi Maharajas. In the gallery of chariots, we could see display of horse drawn coaches imported from England, formerly used by the Maharajas of Travancore.
The collections displayed in the museum are mainly from the Travancore Royal House, Paliam Devaswom and from the Department of Archaeology.
The display of a metallic structure in the shape of a human, hanging from a suspension was scary. Those punished for severe crime were put inside this and suspended in the open. Starvation and bird pecking will cause a slow death of the criminal. The thought of such a death itself was distressing.
The architecture of the Hill palace is also very interesting. While walking through the vast verandhas and climbing the wooden stairs and exploring the interiors, somehow I felt the haunting song from "Manichithratathazhu" flowing continuously.....
"Varuvanillarumee ingorunaalumee vazhikkariyaam athennalumennum priyamulloralaro varuvanudennu njaan veruthe mohikkumallo ennum veruthe mohikkumallo"
I searched for the "famous Nagavalli's" painting, but couldn't find it !
After lunch, we headed towards Kumarakom. The route after taking the Cherthala road was very beautiful. Huge trees on both sides of the road and the canal on the left side gave a very good driving experience. The heavy rains in the state made the place more greenery.
We reached Kumarakom by 4 PM. The resort was well maintained and was facing the Vembanad lake. There were many varieties of fish in the resort water-bodies connected with the lake.
Later, around half past 5, we went to the lakeside. The cool wind and the excellent view of the sunset and the dark clouds blocking its view partially in the background of Vembanad lake was breathtaking. The dark clouds tried to hide the sun and the sun was trying to escape from its clutches. Various species of birds were returning to their nests. Many houseboats were returning back and some was going for their night stay in the lake. The sun disappeared by then.
We had Malabar Porotta, Chicken curry, rice and Aleppy fish curry for dinner. Watched TV for some time and slipped into sleep.
Got up at 6 AM. Had planned a visit to the nearby Kumarakom bird sanctuary along with my 9 year old niece. After 10 minutes of drive from the resort, we reached the sanctuary. The main bird watching tower was 2 kms. away from the sanctuary entrance. We could see many varieties of birds and butterflies near the entrance itself. We started walking along the narrow path leading to the bird watching tower. The surroundings were embraced by the chirping of birds and chorus by crickets, but couldn't see any. Huge trees and the greenery on both sides of the pavement and the cloudy atmosphere made the sanctuary very picturesque. Very few people we spotted in the sanctuary. The pavement was built along a small lake.
After 1 km of walking, we met a boatman and hired his rowing boat. The boatman rowed slowly as we entered into one of the backwaters connected to Vembanad lake. We could see many cormorants, snake birds, kingfishers, herons and various stork species fly across the lake. Lotus, lilly flowers and floating plants decorated the lake. Many small boats were passing by. House boats were anchored along the sides.
Slowly, we entered Vembanad lake. It is one of the largest saltwater lake in Kerala. Many varieties of fish including the blackpearl fish (Karimeen) can be seen in abundance in the lake. We found many cormorants and other birds waiting to catch fish. The cormorants deep dive into the water, stay drowned for some time and catch its prey. It was interesting to watch them do this. Many Brahmani kites were hovering in the sky.
It was cloudy and started raining, but soon, the dark clouds and rains moved away. We spent more than an hour in the lake. We also started rowing the boat along with the boatman. Overall, the boat journey was a great experience.
After breakfast, we had planned for a 5 hour house-boat (Kettuvallom) cruise.
The houseboat caretakers greeted us with some mocktails. Slowly, we cruised into the Vembanad lake. We saw many lakeside resorts including the Coconut Lagoon and Zuri resorts. We enjoyed the cool breeze and the the beauty of the lake and we saw many small islands on the way. The flock of birds flying across the lake added to the charm. We spotted one huge tree in the middle of the lake with lots of cormorants and herons on it. We could also see the famous island "Pathiramanal(midnight sand)" covered by dense greenery nearby and it looked very beautiful. My curiosity about the variety of food that was being cooked led me to the kitchen in between.
The boat was anchored for lunch around 1 PM. We had awesome food including the much awaited "Karimeen" fry.
The cruise started again and even though we felt sleepy, the beauty around us kept us awake. The boat steered past few islands. Few house boats were cruising across the lake. Later in the evening, we had tea and snacks in the boat and finally reached the resort by 5 PM.
There was plenty of time to relax that evening. Spent the late evening by the lakeside and the lawns. After dinner, listened to some music and by mid-night, I switched off the lights. We had to drive back home next morning.