15/07/2024

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Our Honeymooning in Kerala- Exploring the Adode of Serene Beauty

Our Honeymooning in Kerala- Exploring the Adode of Serene Beauty

“I sing of gentle flowers, gushing streams and placid winds
When amidst the tranquil pleasures of the earth,
Love in its entire quiescence–helped me discover you
As my entire being, my entire life…”

Well, unlike all the other travelogues that I have written these days, this one may sound like a fragment of my emotional fancies. And for that matter, whosoever on earth told to recount his/her honeymooning ventures/escapades would just love to express to you how much beauty, tranquility and lust for life was waiting for them to be explored in their honeymoon haven, far from the madding crowd! As for me, it was an experience so preciously personal that I couldn’t have found the eloquence of words to describe it for years, had it not been for my husband’s constant insistence to pen down my thoughts on it. So I dedicate this one to none other than my sweetheart, and to the constant love and affection that has held us tight towards each other amidst all odds of life!

What can I say when love was in its most tranquil form, among the roaring waves of the beaches, the silent prayers inside the sublime temples, and amidst the exotic beauty of coconut trees?
The die-hard romantic that I used to be in my teenybopper college days, I had always dreamt of an ideal date by the side of a pristine beach, with the sands flirting with our feet, with the waves gushing to proclaim the beginning of a new, exciting togetherness, with silence intertwined with soft whisperings. And believe me or not, all of it really came true in my life, not on my first date, but on my honeymoon, in Kovalam beach, Kerala!! How can I ever forget the date? It was a new dawn for me, the 3rd of December, the day we set out for our flight to Trivandrum in the midst of a foggy early winter morning in Kolkata!

Why did we choose Kerala beaches and backwaters as our honeymoon destination:

Truly speaking, beach sites all over India have simply fascinated me since my childhood. Moreover, since both of us had just decided upon visiting some place that would not be crowded (quite a common criteria for honeymooners!) and at the same time would be exotic enough to be remembered for a lifetime, we unanimously agreed upon touring the beach sites of Kovalam as well as exploring the exquisite beauty of the Alleppey backwaters. And while I have heard some people say that beaches are the same everywhere, I instinctively felt that it is not so in Kerala. And why not? Bound by the exotic Arabian Sea on its western side, with its vast shore line extending up to 600 kilometers, we can safely say the tiny state of Kerala houses some of the best beaches of the country, or rather, of the world!

Speaking of the beaches, I don’t personally know why the Kerala beaches have taken a backseat when Indian tourists are concerned. Most of us blame the tremendous popularity of the Kerala backwaters for it, but if you ask me, well, where else can you find such gentle surf and crystal clear blue waters topped with a fabulous coast line that is adorned by sandy beaches, rocky promontories and coconut palms? And the beauty of most of the Kerala beaches lies in the fact that all of them are tremendously picturesque sites while at the same time being quiet and serene, less infested with seasonal crowd. And in all the three days we spent in the Kerala beaches including Kovalam, we just celebrated their tranquility, seclusion and virgin beauty, along with sharing some of the most divine moments together, watching the small, quaint local fishing villages, some old piers that extend in to the sea, lagoons, vast lakes and numerous fresh water rivers. At the Kovalam beach site, we enjoyed the sight of a small village down the shoreline, the exquisite Lighthouse beach. At the Shankhamugam beach on the other hand, we were fortunate to experience one of the most breathtaking sunset views ever amidst the picturesque surroundings of a favorite haunt of sunset watchers. Another fascinating beach, the Thirumullavaram Beach was a perfect morning retreat, where we started our day looking at the swaying coconut palm trees, and watching local fishermen who set out into the sea in search of their catch! On one hand, we were getting more and more awed by the untarnished beauty of all the beaches, while on the other hand, we were just relishing our sheer sense of delight looking at the contrast between the blue hues of the water and the sky! Everywhere around us, there was a bite of paradise, which was getting more serene with the nectar of our sweet togetherness!

Our prayers in the Padmanabhaswamy temple:

As I had already heard and read some fabulous tales about the hoary temple tradition at the Southern State of Kerala, we had quite decided that our visit would be incomplete without seeing at least a couple of them. Moreover, like most of the newly married Hindu brides, me too had some sentimental leanings towards offering prayers and ‘puja’ to the Lords for both of our lives, our future and our prolonged togetherness! Well, I can still clearly remember the day we paid a short visit to the exquisite Padmanabhaswamy temple, when we were just fascinated with its unique temple architecture and the quiet serenity inside the huge temple boundaries! To be in sync with the mood, I dressed myself completely in a traditional south Indian ensemble, bought flowers from the local market and hanged them around my hair as a demure Keralite bride, and I loved every moment of it! The day started off with our sheer wonder in exploring the awe-inspiring architecture of the Padmanabhaswamy temple and the serene atmosphere of divinity inside it. One of the grandest and one of the most ancient temples of Kerala, it has been vibrant with tradition, having been associated for years with the arts and music. Needless to say, the most awe-inspiring sight inside the temple was its shrine, showcasing an imposing image of Vishnu in the Anantasayanam posture; an image which we viewed through three doors in front of the shrine. It was a sunny Sunday morning, and the huge gathering in front of the shrine was enough to tell us the religious fervor of the people there! However, beyond the sheer religious pursuits of people, we were getting more and more awed by the Dravidian style of the temple architecture, its 100 feet high ‘gopuram’ (also built in ancient Dravidian style) and its magnificent mural paintings and stone carvings! No wonder then, that with a colorful calendar of festivities, the amalgamation of stonework, wood work, murals and sculpture- harmoniously blended into a structure vibrant with traditions of the region, the Padmanabhaswamy temple is highly regarded as one among the 108 temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu in India. To me, the temple was fascinating to say the least (in spite of its strict worship protocols), emphasizing fully on the sanctity, simplicity and a prevailing naturalism which marked the worship of Lord Padmanabhaswamy.

The journey to the beautiful Alleppey backwaters:

The day was the 6th of December and the morning had been made into an auspicious one by the prevailing serenity of the temple. Now, we had very little time at our disposal in Tiruvanandapuram, the temple site, as we had to set out for another fabulous journey, a night at a sweet, picturesque houseboat, exploring the exquisite beauty of the Alleppey backwaters (now named Alappuzha Backwaters) and the cluster of beautiful little islands in the vicinity. We had already booked a one-night cruise on a houseboat that would let us explore the beauty of Alappuzha, and we would spend the night in the quiet tranquility of the backwaters. The thought itself was so romantic that when we were trying to reach the coastal township of Alleppey, we didn’t even notice that our driver got confused with the direction and we were getting quite late than our scheduled time! However, after much strife and tribulations, we reached the coast from where we could see our small, romantic houseboat amidst the drizzling raindrops, seated on a network of lakes and lagoons and canals that were crisscrossing each other! Never before had I seen a more heavenly sight anywhere! Visitors all across the globe have named the Alappuzha as the Venice of the East. Rightly so, as it has been home to the picture-perfect waterways and canals unmatched by any other site in the orient. Enjoying the extremely romantic dusk with the sight of the enchanting backwaters and the raindrops which had made the setting even more out of this world, we stepped inside our small, cozy houseboat for our backwater ride after dusk. Sailing along the “kettuvallam” (houseboat) through the enchanting backwaters of Alappuzha was the experience of a lifetime, though the journey had to stop after a while due to rough winds and heavy rainfall. Our boat was then anchored somewhere near the shore and we were to stay inside the boat for the night and again start our journey the next morning if the storm cooled down. Ours was a one room houseboat including a picturesque sundeck, a cozy bedroom and an attached private bath, with excellent construction and luxurious furnishing featuring exquisite flooring, hull and valavara (canopy). The reason I am describing the interiors of the houseboat is that it was a completely soothing experience to me, being totally different in its raw, naturalistic appeal in the midst of a picture-perfect scenario of lakes, lagoons, canals and rivers. And though the houseboat operators had their share of flaws, they made up for it with some mind-blowing authentic Keralite cuisines including some interesting delicacies made with the local fish!

The next day, early at dawn, the storm cooled down and we could see the clear azure sky, which meant we could now start sailing through the backwaters again. And lo, what do we see as we start the backwater ride? Palm fringed narrow canals winding through the vast expanse of paddy fields, neat tiny hamlets lined up along either sides of the canals, and above all, a bewildering labyrinth of shimmering waterways composed of lakes, canals, rivers and rivulets! Moreover, along our way, we explored the scenic countryside of Kuttanad (referred to as the “rice bowl of Kerala” due to its wealth of paddy crops) with its shimmering waterways, its dense tropical greenery and its rich crop of bananas! There were those fishing nets of the local fishermen, the flock of ducks swimming around the banks and tiny birds flying across the sky, smelling deeply of the vibrant life in the countryside of the magical Kuttinad!

Late at noon, we decided to encounter the cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, which is very much a part of the Kuttanad region. There was an immensely beautiful bird sanctuary in the vicinity, spread across 14 acres–quite a favorite haunt of migratory birds (including herons, teal, waterfowl, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian storks) and an ornithologist’s paradise! We were told that the best way to watch the birds of the Kumarakom sanctuary is a boat trip. However, we didn’t have enough time for the boat trip, but explored to our full the lush greenery of a couple of islands and the serene beauty of the Vembanad lake that juts into the mainland in a series of lagoons and streams. Together, all of it created splendid scenery that is still fresh in my memory like a drop of morning dew!

It was the last evening of our tour, and with hearts heaving with the sheer ecstasy of the surroundings as well as with the sorrow of parting ways with the magical Kerala, we reached the
Whispering Palms lake resort, the 4-star resort in Kumarkon, located on the bank of the Vembanadu Lake. It was fascinating to discover that this resort also adorned the natural backwaters! That was the last night of our stay in the picturesque honeymoon haven that we had chosen for ourselves. To make the night memorable, and to bask in the luxury of tranquility, we remained awake till the wee hours of the night, not in our room, but outside, watching the spectacular beauty of the backwaters nestled undauntedly by the tall palms and coconut trees which was being enjoyed from a point just outside the resort! As small children sitting in the lap of Mother nature, we had our feet floating in the waters, and also had to pay a small price for it. One of my pair of sandals suddenly disappeared into the waters, and after some time, we understood it was useless searching for it. As we laughed it off, our giggling and ‘sweet nothings’ evaporated into the air and mingled with the mystic charm of the settings of the beautiful Kumarkon! Now staying some thousand miles away from my country, I wistfully yearn for the essence and the fervor of those few days spent in the lavish exploration of nature’s wonders in Kerala, the God’s own land! Some day, before we die, we would surely love to relive those idyllic days! Till then, all I can do is to conclude my writing with these famous lines of William Wordsworth:
“Earth has not anything to show more fair/ Dull would he be of soul who could pass by/
A sight so touching in its majesty!”