Tag Archives: alappuzha

Beautiful Rail Routes in India…

Train Tourism mat not be a much hyped ‘tag word’ in international travel and tourism scenario. But traveling through vast scenic lands in a train is an experience with few equals. Especially in a big country like India, which possesses natural wonders in abundance, some train journeys give indescribable joy of travelling. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful railway routes in India…

# 1  Konkan Rail Route:

Stretching about 760 kilometers in length, almost parallel to the Southwest Coastline of India, Konkan railway route is indeed a marvel in terms of scenic beauty as well as engineering creation. Built in a very difficult terrain with frequent landslide tendencies, Konkan railway project was a landmark in the history of Indian Civil Engineering – an achievement that seemed impossible for even the renowned engineers in the British colonial era.

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With bewitching greenery, pleasing water-bodies, stunning curves, artistic landscapes, formidable bridges, tunnels and viaducts, the Konkan Rail route’s eye feats are too many; with sights such as the ‘Dudh Sagar Waterfalls’ (at the Karnataka-Goa state border) ranking high in the list.

Indeed a rail journey much sought after by the train enthusiasts!


# 2 Mandapam-Rameshwaram Rail Route:

This is a rail route with a difference…  in fact it is a journey through a 2+ kilometers long sea bridge that links the sacred pilgrim spot Rameshwaram with the main land of India.

Known as the ‘Pamban Bridge’, this was incidentally the first sea bridge in India – built more than a century ago. Withstanding the time, this colonial architecture remained the longest sea bridge in the country till the completion of the Bandra-Worli sea bridge at Mumbai.

Though this rail route is mainly meant for pilgrims bound to the Southern Banaras – Rameshwaram, this sea bridge journey will enthrall all alike, whether devotees or not.

With the Bay of Bengal Sea roaring below in scary depths and strong winds whistling past the ears, this train journey evokes thrills and chills.

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# 3 Nilgiris Mountain Rail Route:

This is a rail route that takes you to the old world charm. Vintage-era Swiss steam engine locomotive with toy-like compartments (they are very narrow!) puffing through inaccessible mountain ranges!

Starting from Mettupalayam, near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and terminating at Udhagamandalam aka ‘Ooty’ the prime hill station in South India, this train journey consists of 108 curves, 16 tunnels and 250 bridges in a span of 42 kilometers along lush high ranges and sprawling tea estates. In fact some of the en-route terrains are so steep that the speed will be 5-10 Kmph; prompting the commuting enthusiasts for a walking competition with the locomotive!

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Covering landscapes of crude beauty and few hill stations that still exhibit the British colonial touch, this train covers the forty+ kilometers in four & half hours. After many huffs, puffs, twists, turns and gentle speeds, once the destination is reached it will feel like a re-entry to the modern world from the old.

The centuries old British engineering works and the Swiss loco continue to entertain the public…


# 4 Vizag-Arakku Valley Rail Route:

Linking the important port city of Southeast India Vishakhapatnam aka Vizag (in Andra Pradesh) with the scenic valley of Arakku, this is the only hilly rail route in India that runs on broad gauge. Though originally built to transport iron ores from Chattisghad state to Vishakhapatnam port, this route provides some fascinating panoramic views of unspoilt nature.

The train journey to Arakku Valley – a beauty spot with thick forests and coffee plantations – consists of numerous visual delights like big and fall cascades, caves, tunnels, hilly areas… not to mention the enchanting river and green valley combination, as the journey nears its climax.

Shimiliguda, the highest broad gauge station of India lies on this rail route.


# 5 Thiruvananthapuram-Palakkad Rail Route:

Last but not the least…

….this route is the best way to explore the beauty of Kerala, the God’s own country, by rail.

A train journey from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram in the south to the town of Palakkad in the north – via Kollam and Alappuzha – will bring a feast of sceneries that anyone will cherish for long.

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Beautiful backwaters dotted with tiny islets, the pristine rural life that continues unaltered along the water banks, lush paddy fields, gentle coconut trees swaying along the landscape, lakes and canals on one side and sea on the other, soothing winds, buzzes of nature…

… all these are more than enough for any tourist to dub the tiny state as God’s very own!

Onam – ‘The spirit of Kerala’ !


From glooms to cheerfulness, from shoe-string budget constraints to prosperity, from the dullness of heavy rains to the freshening radiance of gentle sun rays, … that Onam to Keralites – arguably the chief festival of what’s dubbed as the God’s Own Country, Kerala.

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Kerala tours

Kerala’s most celebrated festival occasion ‘Onam’ is the hallmark of a new calendar year. ie., Chingam 1st which marks the beginning of the New Year in the Malayalam calendar, called as  ‘Kolla Varsham’. Chingam, which follows the last month of Malayalam year ‘Karkidakam’, offers a sharp contrast from its predecessor in terms of climate and lifestyle. Karkidakam is the month of monsoon characterized by heavy lashes of downpour plus subsequent diseases where people have to take various means to improve their frequently ailing health condition and, due to this month’s volatile nature people won’t conduct any important or joyful occasions such as marriages, new house warming, …  whereas Chingam is a new dawn of cheer & good times for Keralites. This is the time of harvests, plentiful special occasions like marriages and, above all the celebration time of Onam!
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Onam for Kerala is not just a mere festive occasion, more than that it symbolizes the spirit of Kerala’s vibrant culture & legacy. This festival is celebrated by all – people from all wakes of life and each & every religions here – for Keralites this is the testimony of their brotherhood & pride! Origin of Onam is in fact timeless. Few interesting legends are associated with the beginning of Onam, of which the most prominent one is connected with ‘Mahabali’ ancient King of Kerala.
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A demon King who held sway in not only Kerala but all the mythical three worlds namely Heaven of gods, Earth of humans, and the Netherworld. His rule was regarded as the best in every respect which is yet to be surpassed by any known ruler! Ballads describe Mahabali’s rule as the one where people lived in utmost prosperity, happiness & joy prevailed everywhere, and the word ‘crime’ was virtually unheard / unknown. Without doubt, an ear that is beyond compare with the present governing system!!!
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It is believed that Gods grew anxious about the expanding prowess & fame of Mahabali that they sought the help of Lord Vishnu (the preserver god in Hinduism’s holy trinity) to oust Mahabali. Lord Vishnu took the form of a Brahmin kid ‘Vamana’, went to meet Mahabali and requested him 3 footages of land as alms. King Mahabali, known for his virtuous of keeping promises, agreed to do so. Instantly Vamana assumed a gigantic form. He measured Heaven with one footstep and Earth with another step. With Vamana’s third step looming large & the destruction of the King’s subjects almost a certain, Mahabali voluntarily offered his head to rest that third step so that the kingdom & subjects will be saved. Vamana’s feet pushed Mahabali to Netherworld. However, impressed by the King’s care towards his subjects, Vamana (Lord Vishnu) granted Mahabali a boon that he can visit his people once in every year. That occasion came to be known as Onam.
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Onam festival occasion begins with the Malayalam calendar day ‘Atham’ (usually falls in mid August to early September every year), followed by ten days with a grand fiesta on ‘Thiru Onam’ day. ‘Atham’ is welcomed by Keralites with a colourful procession called as ‘Athachamayam’, a procession with richly decorated sets that depict mythological events. The procession in central Kerala’s Tripunithura town (former capital of Cochin State) is a particularly famous crowd puller.
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From Atham onwards every home in Kerala gets ready to greet their beloved King by decorating their house’s threshold with artistic flower patterns (known as ‘Pookalam’). From Atham to Thiru Onam; every day a new pattern of Pookalam will be prepared in homes – to mark the significance of each Onam day.
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The grandest celebration takes off on Thiru Onam day. Besides the decorated Pookalam & clay-made representation of Mahabali, all household will wear new cloths – a custom that signifies the triumph of good times over troubled times, prosperity over hardship, plus the token of welcome of their beloved King. Women get busy to prepare the traditional Kerala feast ‘Onam Sadya’ – a lavish feast where rice with wide variety of vegetarian dishes is served on a banana leaf. Some standouts of this Onam feast are Upperi, Sharkara Varatti (banana fried chips & fried banana coated with sugar) and Payasam (a delicious nectar-like dish).
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To add up the celebrations of Mahabali’s return & good times, women in Kerala households perform the dance from ‘Thiruvathira Kali’ / ‘Kaikotti Kali’ – a group of seven or eight ladies, wearing customary Kerala dress, encircle a lighted lamp and perform uniform rhythmic dance movements with clapping of hands.
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On the other hand Male folks also form friend circles and celebrate Onam their own with games like ‘Puli kali’ (performing Tiger-like pranks), ‘Sayippum Kaduvayum’ (Hunter and Tiger / Leopard showdown), etc.
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Onam occasion is celebration time in every aspect with most of the reputed Snake Boat Races of Kerala such as ‘Payippad Boat Race’, ‘Aranmula Boat Race’, ‘Chambakkulam Boat Race’, also take place in the days that follow Thiru Onam.
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Earlier years were filled with so many local-styled entertaining games & activities during Onam holidays. But as modernity and nuclear family concept have taken their toll, much of the good old Onam games & activities are confined to Television channels’ studio sets and cultural stages. Whatever it is, the legacy of Onam always prevails and it continues as a driving force of Kerala’s unity & integrity – most certainly forever.