Monday, 21 December 2015

MALAMPUZHA DAM AND GARDEN with its natural background at PALAKKAD, KERALA

Malampuzha is a small place in the outskirts of the Palakkad Town and at the foot of the Western Ghats. The name Malampuzha itself is derived from the river with the same name and flows from the Ghats. Across this river the famous Malampuzha dam is constructed with a beautiful garden below it in the style of Mugal gardens of Srinagar Kashmir (see the Youtube link below). Inside the garden there is a Children section with a mini train. Because of this and the nearness of the mountains and forest with its trekking tracks this suburb of Palakkad is also a major tourist attraction. The water of the dam is both used for irrigation and drinking purpose.

Across the garden there is a ropeway service though the entry is from outside the garden. It is a 15 minutes aerial journey most enjoyable particularly for children and the whole garden and surrounding area is visible below the ropeway. Boating facilities are available inside the garden in the small stream flowing from the dam.

Close to the garden and dam, there are other attractions like fresh water aquarium, rock garden, Snake Park, etc. The snake park has got a good collection and maintained by the Government Forest Department. Though I had seen other snake parks also including the one at Pune,it is in this snake Park, I had seen Pythons staying at the tree tops.

Hotels are available near the garden. More accommodation at cheap rate are available at Palakkad town which is connected by road at about 6 kilometre distance. Palakkad is well connected by road and rail. Nearest airport is Coimbatore.

Other tourist point near Malampuzha is the Fort in the heart of the Palakkad Town at about 6 kilometers away by road.

Go to the link for photo slide show:


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Pontifical Marthoma Shrine Azhikode – Kodungallur. Christian Pilgrim center

Pontifical Marthoma Shrine is at Azhikode, Kodungallur in Thrissur District of Kerala. It is built in memory of the arrival of St. Thomas where his relics are kept. This is built in the model of St. Peters of Vatican. It was also in the nearby area, one of the seven and half churches was established by St. Thomas.
St. Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, landed in India in 52 A.D., i.e., well before St. Peter reached Rome in 72 A.D with the message of Christ. At that time, it was also one of the main ports in the Malabar Coast known as Muziris. But unfortunately, this port was extinct in 1341 A.D. due to a Tsunami like flood realigned the area. The main reason why he selected this area was that, there were many Jews settled in this area being a commercial center in those days. Therefore, the Christians of Malabar coast is known as St. Thomas Christians to distinguish it from other Christians who were converted after the European Missionaries like St. Xavier, etc. came to India, after the arrival of Vasco da Gama of Portugal landed at Kozhikode (Calicut) at the same Malabar coast in 1498 A.D. St. Thomas Christians are also known as Syrian Christians/Syro Malabar Christians etc., who used Syrian language in Holy Mass in olden days and followed local customs in wedding and other ceremonies as distinguished from the Latin/Anglo Christians who used Latin/English language in Holy Mass and followed European customs in wedding and other ceremonies. Till the arrival of Europeans, St. Thomas Christians of Malabar Coast had also no idea about the existence of the Pope and they were a totally independent Church then, though there was some influence from the Church of Syria due to the commercial connection with gulf countries in those days.
The surrounding area of the Shrine is blessed with natural beauty. South side is River and the west side is Arabian Sea. It is a joining place of rivers like Chalakudy river, Periyar, etc., with the sea. Munakkal beach is also about 1 kilometer away. One of the spectacular scene of Azhikode river side is the use of Chinese fishing net to catch fish. This Chinese fishing net locally known as Cheena vala, was first introduced in the area including the nearby Kochi (Cochin) backwaters were Portuguese.
How to reach:
Air : Nearest international airport is Cochin International Airport Nedumbassery about km
Rail : Nearest railway station is Irinjalakuda , but Thrissur railway station is more convenient to reach the place.

Road : The Shrine is situated very close to the National Highway NH17.

I.  Watch the youtube clip below for shrine :

 II.  Watch the youtube video below to know China net and how it is used :


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Shimla or Simla, Capital of Himachal Pradesh, India

Shimla or Simla is one of the most famous tourist destinations of India. It is located in the State of Himachal Pradesh as its Capital. The name of this hill station derives from the goddess " Shyamla", who is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Kali. The luck of this hill station started with the discovery of the place by the British who played romance with its beauty and went to the extent of declaring the city as their summer capital. The status of capital remained up till now, though under various status. After the British summer Capital, it became the capital of undivided State of Punjab. After that, when the state of Himachal Pradesh was formed, Shimla became its capital. Thus, this small hill station surrounded by the Himalayan ranges always remained as a Capital city. I am very happy to mention that I and my wife stayed in one of those historic, heritage buildings called The Grand Hotel of the British era, now used as Holiday Homes by the Government of India for the parliamentarians, employees and others. But rates are different according to the different categories. This and many other heritage buildings certify that Shimla still retains its original charm and beauty. Natural beauty, calm and cool atmosphere is the identification of Shimla. 

In addition, as in any other place, there are some notable places of interest in and around Shimla:

1.            The Ridge road is a large open space, located in the heart of Shimla, the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, India. The Ridge is the hub of all cultural activities of Shimla. It is situated along the Mall Road, which is the famous shopping center of Shimla. Most major places of Shimla like Snowdon, Mall, Jakhoo hill, etc. are connected through the Ridge.

2.            Mall Road is the main street in Shimla. It is constructed during British colonial rule. The Mall road  is at a level below the ridge road.

3.            Scandal point is the place where the Mall road joins Ridge road. There is a love story behind the name Scandal point. In short, the story tells that the then Maharaja of Patiala had eloped with the daughter of the British Viceroy from this place. Following this, the Maharaja was prohibited from entering Shimla by the British authorities. But the Maharaja equally countered the move by setting up a new summer capital in the nearby place called Chail, about 45 km from Shimla. It is now a famous hill resort and tourist place.

4.            Kali Bari Temple: The temple is situated near to The Mall and is 5 minutes walk from The Mall. The temple is dedicated to Shyamala Devi (Shimla is named after this goddess), an incarnation of Goddess Kali. The temple witness heavy rush during the Diwali and Durga Puja seasons as many outside pilgrims throng to this temple in addition to normal tourists.

5.            Churches:  Built in 1846-1857, Christ Church is the second oldest church of Northern India. The Church overlooks the Ridge and is one of the landmarks of Shimla. The clocks on Christ Church were added later but none of them are functional now. The Church's exquisite beauty comes with the stained glasses that are fitted on its windows. One can have a look inside the church, or attend English-language services. From the side of this Church, the steps towards the Jakhu Hill Temple starts.The town's other important church is the Roman Catholic Church, which is just below road of the Mall.

6.            Jakhu Hill and Temple: 2 km from Shimla, at a height of about 8500 ft. Jakhu Hill is the highest peak in Shimla and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas and a delight for tourists. At the top of the Hill, there is also an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is also the home of countless monkeys. Many Pilgrims feed these monkeys. There is a 108 ft. statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, outside the temple. It is considered to be the highest statue to stand at this high altitude. Please go through the video scene I captured from the Jakhu temple complex:

7.            Shri Sankat Mochan temple is situated at a distance of about 5 K.m from Shimla and is on the Kalka- Shimla National Highway.  This temple is very easily approachable by car. It is liked by the devotees and pilgrims. For the tourists it gives a beautiful view of the Shimla City and the Jakhu Temple overlooking at the opposite side.

8.            Indian Institute of Advanced Study: This institute is housed at the former Viceregal Lodge, once used as the summer residence of the Viceroy. Nearby to it there is a small zoo housing birds. Most of the birds are left in the open without cages.

9.          Naldehra: Naldehra is a well maintained Golf course. Surrounding Himalayan Ranges and thick forest of giant deodar trees, make it a unique spot for picnics. Regular bus and taxi service is available to the spot. But from there you have to either walk or take horse journey to see the Golf course and two temples inside.

10.          Kufri: Well known for its slopes which gives good views of the Himalayan ranges. There is a Himalayan Nature Park in the area and a mini zoo has been set up in this Park. Rare breeds of wild animals and pheasant species commonly found in Himalayan forest region have been kept here in a natural habitat.

11.          Lakkar Bazar: Lakkar bazar is famous for fancy items including local products of Shimla. It includes rural products, woolen and wood products at attractive bargaining rates. Here blanket etc. made out of Yak wool is also available. It is very cheap, but rough than the wool from  sheep. 

The terrain of Shimla is very steep so many roads are very narrow. Hence, one has to walk up and down particularly in the nearby areas of the Ridge/Mall where motor vehicles are totally prohibited, except the emergency vehicles.

Shimla is conveniently connected by Rail and Road. Air journey is not convenient.