Archive for the ‘6.Kumarakom’ Category

Kumarakom – Best of Lagoons.

June 10, 2008

Kumarakom Back waters13 Kms. from Kottayam lies the sleepy little village of Kumarakom on the Vembanad lake. Kumarakom offers exotic sightseeing, boating and fishing experiences. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is one of the most important attractions of the place. Cruising along the Vembanad Lake one can get glimpses of the numerous migratory birds like the egret, darter, heron and teal.
From Ernakulam or Cochin Kumarakom town is 50-70 km away.
I was back in Ernakulam by night after the Thekady expedition. Next day morning, i set off to Kumarakom.
I decided to travel upto Alleppey by Train.
There are a number of trains running from Ernakulam to Alleppey in the morning hours.
I caught the Intercity Express which leaves Ernakulam South junction at 6.10 AM. It is just 20Rs for a ticket in second class to Alleppey.
It is too cool to travel morning in the train, a pleasant journey.
Reached Alleppey by 7.15AM. Alleppey is a coastal town in central kerala.  It is an important trading center for coastal products and choir based industry. Alleppey is also the administrative capital of Alleppey district. It was beutiful sight on the way through back water sides.
About Kumarakom. Kumarakom is undoubtedly one of the most invigorating, fascinating paradise in Kerala. The slender coconut palms standing here, there and everywhere, its never ending paddy fields, meandering lagoons and backwaters, mangroves nesting birds of a hundred varieties can peacefully calm and invigorate your mind with renewed inspiration for your vocation and life. That is the pristine beauty of KumaraCountry Boatskom.
Kumarakom the charming emerald peninsula jutting into the ever-effervescent Vembanad Lake takes you into the heart of the scenic lake where you’ll come across plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes. The fresh water of the lake runs into the mainland making a labyrinth of lagoons, brooks, canals and waterways. The backwater houses a variety of species of both fauna and flora. They are rich with marine life namely the exclusive ‘Kumarakom Karimeen’ (pearl spotted fish), Konju (tiger prawns), Njandu (crabs), Chemeen (prawns) and many more.

As the monsoon winds bring rain to the shores of Vembanad Lake, the Kumarakom is transformed into a rich fertile land. The streams, lagoons, brooks break their banks and provide nourishment to springs and shrubs that sprout from every available space. Water birds, migratory birds, mangrove shores and the renowned bird sanctuary form their niche. The resorts nearby offer comfortable accommodation and exclusive leisure options like an Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing and swimming. The adventurous could indulge in water sports such as windsailing and waterskiing. You could even take a canoe out into the quite lakes and armed with a fishing rod, catch your own supper.
Karimeen and fresh toddy-the favourite fresh water food and the local wine of kumarakom is very famous.

Alleppey to Kumarakom by House Boat
A spacious double-bedroom Kettuvallam was waiting at Alleppey on the narrow creek with her crew on board. The houseboat completely charmed us it came with a living room, an open lounge, a kitchenette and a personal bathroom attached to the bedroom. The thatched windows soon opened out into the Vembanad lake and the canvas came alive an endless expanse of blues, with tinges of green and browns. As we started sailing towards Alappuzha, we crossed several clusters of islands and farms separated by a labyrinth of brooks, streams and lagoons. The inclined coconut trees interrupted the landscape as we found ourselves flanked by lush greenery on either side. Several tourists and locals sailed past us in their barges and canoes. Occasionally the birds broke the silence, feasting on the paddy fields submerged in water. We paused for lunch in an idyllic island, sipping in the natural flavor of toddy. Our next port of halt was the bird sanctuary on the enchanting island called Pathiramanal, home to several migratory birds such as Siberian cranes, teal, egrets, heron and the water duck.
We ensued our journey watching the lake turn several hues. The sunlight streamed in, creating patterns, a flight of birds flocked in the horizon.. it was like a moment captured in eternity.

To aymenem
That afternoon we asked for a motorboat to visit Ayemenem. The cruise took us through paddy-fields, past bamboo forests and coconut groves and clumps of bright red hibiscus, across little hamlets. Presently we were on the Meenachal river, Meenachal with “the sky and trees in it. And at night, the broken yellow moon in it.” In Ayemenem, everybody knows Arundhati Roy’s name; an autorickshaw takes us to Ayemenem House, “grand old house…but aloof-looking” where, like Estha and Rahel, she spent part of her childhood. Nobody lives here now, said the unfriendly caretaker. We moved on to visit the village’s famous temple. Next afternoon, on the drive back to Cochin, we took in the more famous Vaikom temple, with its unusual pyramidal dome, and the grand 16th century Kottayam churches of Valiapally and Cheriapally (a blend of Portuguese and Malabar architecture). The GAymenenods here, we thought, were not of Small Things.
As we cruised in the backwaters around Ayemenem, the lush imagery of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy’s Booker-winning novel, kept coming back to mind, writes Partha S Banerjee Ayemenem. Immodestly green, with grey-green backwaters and Kari Saipu’s old colonial bungalow. Where Estha and Rahel, the “two-egg twins”, wandered through the magic and mystery of childhood. Where Mammachi ran her pickles factory and the twins loved – by day – the man their mother loved by night. Clandestinely.
Arundhati Roy’s Ayemenem. Of The God of Small Things. In God’s Own Country.
We couldn’t wait to reread the novel after getting back home. We had spent three days in Kerala, not far from the village of Ayemenem, boating down the meandering Meenachal and up the backwaters, suffusing our senses with the sights and smells of the languid palm-clustered countryside. Watching lone men in their valloms, the small boats, drifting with the current, ferrying supplies, fishing. Houses with tiled roofs that arched up at either end in that style peculiar to the Malabar. The “mossgreen” walls, the dense clumps of yellow bamboo, the rubber trees, the men in mundu.
It was easy, after a while, to slip into the pages of The God of Small Things, to visualise Chacko driving the family in the old Plymouth to Cochin along the riverside road, to imagine Velutha, the low-caste carpenter, his body fashioned “by the wood he fashioned,” floating on his back in the river. Awaiting his “uncertain” tryst. And the devastating turn of events.
Ayemenem village adjoins Kumarakom, one of Kerala’s top tourist attractions on the Vembanad Lake, and home for over a century to the Bakers, a British family that until 1962 lived and worked in the marshy, forested lakeside. The locals called Baker ‘Kari Saipu’; in The God of Small Things, Kari Saipu’s house, abandoned now but haunted by his ghost, is “History House” to the twins Estha and Rahel, where police, as the story nears its tragic climax, pummel Velutha to near death.


Today, Baker House is a tourist resort, the centrepiece of the Taj Garden Retreat on the lakeside. A few oTaj Kumarakom - Baker\'s Housether luxury resort hotels peep out of the palm fronds and mangroves fringing the Vembanad Lake but if it is the backwaters that you really want to experience, try Golden Waters, as we did. A cluster of 28 luxury cottages on a bend in the Kavanar river some miles before it drains into the Vembanad Lake, the Golden Waters resort is situated in true backwaters country, so evocative of The God of Small Things. Just sit at the resort’s waterside and watch the valloms sail by even as swarms of ducklings create patterns in the drifting current; spot migratory birds and soak in the all-pervading languor.
And within the resort itself, there are the little canals between the cottages, giving that Venetian touch, and those mesmerising Kathakali performances in the evening. Like much else in the Kumarakom area, Golden Waters once formed part of the Bakers’ 1,600-acre estate of paddy fields and rubber and coconut plantations. Once a mangrove swamp, much of Kumarakom lies below sea level; how the Bakers came to reclaim and clear it is a story by itself.

The story goes back to 1818 when 25-year-old Henry Baker, a recently ordained priest from Essex in eastern England, joins a mission in Tanjore (Thanjavur). Within a year, after marrying Amelia Dorothea, he moves to Kottayam in Kerala to run a new mission. They live here for the rest of their lives, devoting themselves primarily to education (their pioneering efforts contributing in no small measure to Kerala’s subsequent high literacy level). George Baker, the third of their 11 children, takes over the mission after his parents’ death but he is more than just an evangelist; visiting the mangrove swamps on the Vembanad lake shores not far from the mission outpost of Olasha, six miles from Kottayam, he often contemplates clearing the area for a coconut plantation.
We looked in at the Taj Garden Retreat on the last day of our stay to see Baker House (lovingly restored by the hotel chain) and breakfast in its verandah. Earlier in the morning we had gone for a hike in the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on the eastern shores of the Vembanad Lake. It was drizzling and overcast but we did manage, with help from our guide, to spot a whole host of birds: egrets, Siberian storks, black snakebirds with S-shaped necks, herons and colourful kingfishers. We had of course spotted some of those species, though not in such great numbers, the day before in the backwaters and in the lake. The Vembanad Lake is some five miles wide at Kumarakom and scores of strange birds perch on weeds near its shores. Fringed by swaying palms and dense mangroves, this sprawling lagoon has an awe-inspiring beauty. Its vastness amazes you, especially if your hotel is not on its shores and your first view of it is from a boat as it approaches the lake from a narrow river. The largest lagoon in India, it stretches as far north as Cochin, 70 km away, where it opens into the Arabian Sea. Sunsets on the lake are dramatic, the sinking orange disk setting aflame the shimmering waters; our hotel boat took us deep into the waters in the evening and we watched in wonder as the spectacle unfolded.